Carter’s shot propels Texas A&M women into the Sweet 16
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — As Texas A&M prepared to meet Notre Dame in the Sweet 16, coach Gary Blair was asked if the game by freshman guard Chennedy Carter that lifted the Aggies to their last win was one of the top performances in school history.
“I’m part of history,” he said. “I wrote the book. I’ve seen it all. From the college game from 1980 on and coaching it (in high school) from ’73 on. It was one of the best performances in women’s basketball history and not just A&M history.”
Carter shook off a tough first half in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against DePaul to score 32 of a school tournament-record 37 points to lead the Aggies to a 80-79 victory. It was capped by her 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left.
“This is a shot that they should be making posters of right now,” Blair said.
The supremely confident Carter was nonchalant when recalling her game-winning shot that put A&M in the round of 16 for the first time since 2014.
“I didn’t know how much we were down by, honestly,” she said. “I just knew I needed to hit a big shot, and that’s what I did. I just shot it.”
Her teammates were thrilled to see the 5-7 Carter bounce back after her early-game struggles and raved about the shot.
“Out of 10 I would say she gets a 100,” Anriel Howard said.
Carter has led the Aggies in both of their March Madness wins and leads the tournament by averaging 31.5 points a game. It’s the best average for a freshman in tournament history and ranks fourth overall behind Lorri Bauman (36.7 for Drake in 1982), Sheryl Swoopes (35.4 for Texas Tech in 1993) and Kelsey Plum (32 for Washington last year).
The Southeastern Conference freshman of the year made seven 3-pointers against DePaul for the most 3s by an Aggie since D’Nika Romero also made seven in the 2003-04 season.
Carter was the nation’s leading freshman scorer and set a Texas A&M record by scoring 46 points against USC. That game, her work against DePaul and a 36-point performance against South Carolina gives her three of the top five games in school history. She’s scored at will all season, but Blair was impressed with her game in the first round against Drake when she had 11 assists and six steals to go with her 26 points.
He shared what he told her after that game.
“You are now becoming a true point guard,” he said. “You’re becoming a complete player.”
Blair is quick to point out that Carter will need to take a step forward if the Aggies hope to stay alive in the tournament when they meet Notre Dame on Saturday for the first time since the 2011 national championship game won by Texas A&M.
“Chennedy is just going to grow and get better and better and that’s the best thing about coaching her,” Blair said. “She’s making so many mistakes in the game but if I sat her down on every mistake it would just be a yo-yo. I would get tired of her sitting next to me for one play and I’d have her right back in. You’ve got to let young people play through their mistakes and get that experience and hopefully they won’t make it the second time around.”
The great news for the Aggies is that they have three more seasons to watch Carter play and improve. Blair smiles and inhales deeply when asked about the possibilities for her career.
“I’ve coached a lot of great kids,” he said. “I’m not going to anoint her now and put that pressure on her and say that’s the best guard I’ve ever coached ... but she might be the most talented guard I’ve ever coached and particularly after her freshman year. Let’s just watch her grow and mature.”