A&M way too strong for Arkansas

By: Chip Souza
Published: Friday, February 23, 2018
Arkansas' Malica Monk (3) attempts a shot in the lane as Texas A&M's Jasmine Lumpkin (21) and Khaalia Hillsman (00) defend Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, during the second half in Bud Walton Arena.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Malica Monk (3) attempts a shot in the lane as Texas A&M's Jasmine Lumpkin (21) and Khaalia Hillsman (00) defend Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, during the second half in Bud Walton Arena.

FAYETTEVILLE — Gary Blair smiled and shook hands with longtime coaching friend Mike Neighbors before Thursday’s SEC women’s basketball game.

Blair gave Neighbors his first college coaching opportunity when Blair was leading the Arkansas program back in the 1990s. On Thursday, Blair was still handing out lessons as his No. 17 Aggies throttled Arkansas 104-60 in front of 1,375 in Walton Arena.

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No. 17 Texas A&M (21-8, 10-5 SEC) was simply too much for a thin Arkansas team that has lost five in a row and nine of its past 10 games.

“The last thing we expected was to have a blowout like this,” Blair said, “but when you shoot what we did — 52, then 50, then 77 — give credit to my team for executing the game plan.”

Arkansas had no answer for Texas A&M’s shooting, which centered largely on the play inside of 6-foot-5 post Khaalia Hillsman. Hillsman had her way in the lane, hitting 7-of-10 shots and scoring 16 points in 24 minutes.

Neighbors, when asked if Hillsman was just too big and too strong to handle, had a one-word answer.

“Yes,” Neighbors said.

Early on, Arkansas tried to attack from the perimeter and had some success as Devin Cosper, playing her final home game, knocked down a three-pointer that tied the score at 10-10 with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

The Aggies then took the game over, outscoring Arkansas (13-15, 3-12) 18-7 the rest of the quarter.

Hillsman was dominant in the lane, scoring 13 first-half points.

While Hillsman did the dirty work in the paint, the Aggies had three others attacking from the perimeter as Anriel Howard, Jasmine Lumpkin and Chennedy Carter all scored 11 points in the first half to give A&M a 55-33 lead at the half.

Carter, who Neighbors called “the best freshman in this conference probably in the last several years,” led Texas A&M with 21 points, while grabbing 8 rebounds and handing out 7 assists in 29 minutes.

Howard finished with 14 points for the Aggies and had 14 rebounds as A&M dominated the boards 48-28. Blair said Howard’s tenacity on the boards reminded him of a former student during his high school coaching days at Dallas South Oak Cliff, although Blair did not actually coach the player.

“The last player I had like that, I really never got a chance to coach in high school, but his name was Dennis Rodman,” Blair said of the former Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons star.

“He was in my PE class. That’s the next-best rebounder I have ever seen.”

Jailyn Mason did her best to keep Arkansas in the game by scoring 13 in the first half by hitting 5 of 6 shots from the floor.

Mason finished with a team-high 15 points.

Texas A&M opened the third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers and an offensive putback for an 8-0 run and a 63-33 lead in just 1:21.

That set the tone early in the second half as the Aggies shot 77 percent and scored 36 third-quarter points to lock up the victory.

“This group is probably the best offensive team we have faced in the SEC so far,” Neighbors said of the Aggies.

NO. 17TEXAS A&M 104, ARKANSAS 60

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