Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
TOP 25 SEC WOMEN:
UA women fall to Blair, A&M
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --01/06/2013-- Arkansas forward Sarah Watkins tries to get past Texas A&M defender Cierra Windham during Sunday afternoon's game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Texas A&M women’s basketball Coach Gary Blair had a party at his house in Fayetteville on Sunday night after the Aggies played Arkansas.
It was the first time Blair had coached at Walton Arena in 10 years, since he ended a 10-year run as Arkansas’ coach.
“It’s tough,” Blair said. “You’ve got family and friends and everybody in the audience, and I’ve got some people stopping by my house afterwards and I didn’t want it to be a wake. I wanted it to be a celebration.”
Blair and the No. 24 Aggies were able to celebrate a 63-51 victory over No. 23 Arkansas before an announced crowd of 2,269.
Blair said he felt more pressure for last season’s Arkansas-Texas A&M game, when the Aggies beat the Razorbacks 61-59 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at College Station, Texas, but he was emotional about playing at Arkansas given his history with the two schools.
“I was still a basket case in this game,” Blair said. “My assistants were giving me some great calls.”
The Aggies (12-4, 2-0 SEC) jumped out to an 18-4 lead the first seven minutes and led 30-17 at halftime They pushed the lead to 35-17 with 18:50 left after a three point play by senior guard Adrienne Pratcher.
Arkansas (12-3, 0-2) pulled within 43-37 on senior forward Sarah Watkins’ 15-foot jump shot with 8:37 left, but Texas A&M outscored the Razorbacks 9-0 over a 2:23 span to move ahead 52-37 at the 5:37 mark. The Razorbacks didn’t pull closer than 10 points the rest of the game.
“We’re disappointed with the loss,” said Arkansas Coach Tom Collen, who was Blair’s assistant with the Razorbacks for four seasons. “We really didn’t play very well in the first half and missed a lot of shots.
“To our kids credit, I thought we battled to the end and never gave up.”
Texas A&M overcame 24 turnovers by shooting 44.2 percent from the field (23 of 52) and out rebounding Arkansas 45-30. The Razorbacks shot 29.5 percent from the field (18 of 61) and were 1 of 14 on three-point attempts.
Freshman guard Courtney Williams led Texas A&M with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had 7 rebounds. Pratcher had 13 points, and junior center Kelsey Bone had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
“Give Texas A&M credit, they’re good,” said Collen, noting all of the Aggies’ losses have been to teams ranked in the top 10. “They’re by far the best team we have played this year.
“They’re hard to guard. They’re probably more of a Top 10 team than a Top 25 team.”
Watkins led Arkansas with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots. Junior forward Keira Peak had 11 points, and guard Calli Berna had 6 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
“We got down early and they couldn’t miss and our shots wouldn’t go, but what stands out is we didn’t give up and came out in the second half and battled back,” said Berna, a sophomore guard. “That has to carry us the rest of the season.”
Arkansas is shooting 29 percent from the field (34 of 117) in two SEC games, including a 50-47 loss at Auburn on Thursday night.
“The other teams are playing great defense, but we’re also just not hitting shots,” Peak said. “We’re going to get back in the gym and grind.”
Blair said he’s been lucky to coach at Arkansas and Texas A&M.
“Hey, just think, the 20 best years of my life have been at Fayetteville and College Station,” Blair said. “You can’t beat it. Two schools that understand what big time athletics is all about.
“I’ve had the best of both worlds, and I’ve enjoyed the heck of out of it.”
SEC WOMEN’S ROUNDUPS
NO. 6 KENTUCKY 87, ALABAMA 70
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - DeNesha Stallworth had 19 points and 10 rebounds to help Kentucky (14-1, 2-0 SEC) beat Alabama (10-5, 0-2).
Samarie Walker added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.
Kentucky used a 16-4 run midway through the first half to go up 25-13.
Alabama closed to within four, but the Wildcats scored the final three points of the half and led 35-28 at the break.
Alabama cut its deficit to 47-43 early in the second half, but Kentucky put away the game with an 11-3 run.
Meghan Perkins scored 18 points and Shafontaye Myers added 17 for Alabama.
NO. 12 TENNESSEE 79, NO. 10 GEORGIA 66
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Bashaara Graves scored a career-high 23 points and Tennessee (11-3, 2-0 SEC) rallied in the second half to beat Georgia (13-2, 1-1), giving the Lady Vols their fifth consecutive victory in this series.
After trailing 42-40 at halftime, Tennessee scored the first nine points of the second half and stayed in front the rest of the way.
Meighan Simmons added 16 points for Tennessee, while Jasmine Jones scored a career-high 12 points to go along with seven rebounds. Taber Spani had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Jasmine James scored 18 points and Khaalidah Miller had 14 for Georgia.
NO. 18 SOUTH CAROLINA 60, MISSISSIPPI STATE 46
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Aleighsa Welch led South Carolina (13-2, 1-1) with 16 points and seven rebounds as the Gamecocks (8-7, 0-2) rolled past Mississippi State.
Welch was 5 of 9 from the field and made 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Sancheon White added 11 points as nine different players scored for South Carolina, which dropped its SEC opener to No. 12 Tennessee on Jan. 3.
The Gamecocks shot 35.9 percent (14 of 39) from the floor and missed both of their three-point attempts but won the rebound battle 40-30 and made 32 of 50 free-throw attempts.
South Carolina has held 11 opponents to fewer than 50 points.
Kendra Grant led Mississippi State with 15 points. Jerica James added 14.
In other SEC games, Jaterra Bonds scored 19 points and host Florida (12-4, 1-1 SEC) overcame a 58-49 deficit with 11:46 by scoring 11 consecutive points to beat LSU (10-5, 1-1) 77-72.
...Missouri (12-4, 1-1 SEC) won its 11th consecutive home game to defeat Auburn (12-3, 1-1) 82-76 behind a school record 18 three-pointers. Morgan Eye scored 33 points, all of it coming on 11 three-pointers. ... Vanderbilt (12-3, 2-0 SEC) extended its winning streak to nine games with a 76-57 victory over host Ole Miss (7-8, 0-2). Tiffany Clarke led the Lady Commodores with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Jasmine Lister finished with 13 points and 10 assists.
Tennessee 79, Georgia 66 Florida 77, LSU 72 Texas A&M 63, Arkansas 51 Missouri 82, Auburn 76 Kentucky 87, Alabama 70 South Carolina 60, Mississippi State 46 Vanderbilt 76, Mississippi 57
Texas A&M at Kentucky, 5 p.m.
Mississippi at Auburn, 6 p.m.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 6 p.m.
LSU at Arkansas, 7 p.m.
Missouri at Tennessee, 7 p.m.
Florida at Mississippi State, 7 p.m.
Georgia at Alabama, 8 p.m.
Sports, Pages 13 on 01/07/2013