No. 17 Texas A&M women hand No. 6 Tennessee 1st loss, 79-76
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — No. 17 Texas A&M trailed No. 6 Tennessee by two points late in overtime when Aggies guard Danni Williams, with three free throws upcoming, did her best to keep her composure.
“I thought I was going to throw up,” Williams admitted afterward with a grin. “I knew I just needed to breathe and relax, and treat them like everyday free throws.”
Williams coolly sank all three and scored seven points total in overtime, and the Aggies toppled the Lady Vols 79-76 on Thursday night to hand Tennessee its first defeat of the season.
The Aggies (14-4, 3-1 Southeastern Conference), who led 69-62 with 6:41 left in regulation, missed 18 consecutive shots from the field late in the game before recovering in the extra period thanks to Williams’ clutch free throw shooting.
She made all five of her attempts from the line in overtime, including when she was fouled on a 3-point attempt with the Aggies trailing 76-74 and 7.8 seconds remaining.
“Yes, we were dead tired and, yes, I probably should have subbed more,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “But this team is used to playing those kinds of minutes, and every possession was so important.”
Following a timeout, Tennessee had the ball on its end of the court with a chance to win, but Evina Westbrook threw a pass along the left side that bounced out of bounds in front of the Lady Vols bench, resulting in a turnover.
“You’ve got to at least get a shot off there, and we didn’t,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “It’s another learning opportunity for us.”
Williams was fouled with 0.4 seconds left and made both free throws. She and Khaalia Hillsman each scored 22 points to lead A&M, and Chennedy Carter added 21.
Mercedes Russell led the Lady Vols (15-1, 3-1) with 21.
“It was a battle,” Hillsman said of her touted showdown with Russell in the paint. “Just back and forth.”
So was the game. The lead changed 17 times and the teams were tied on 10 occasions in an edge-of-your-seat contest.
“We’ll go back and get better,” Warlick said. “Hats off to A&M, they battled and they got the win. Both teams were getting after it. It was a fun game, and our young kids will learn from this.”
Texas A&M won against a top-10 team for the first time since Nov. 30, 2014, when the Aggies defeated No. 8 Duke 63-59 in College Station.
Tennessee: All is certainly not lost for the Lady Vols, despite their first setback of the season. Texas A&M won a national title under Blair in 2011, so the Aggies are no pushovers in league play. Tennessee will no doubt learn from the tight loss and continue pushing on in trying to win its ninth national championship, and first since 2008.
Texas A&M: The Aggies needed this one to boost their confidence, considering their two previous victories in SEC play came against unranked opponents in Kentucky and Auburn.
Texas A&M: The Aggies won their third straight and are bound to climb in the rankings after beating the No. 6 team.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols might drop a bit from No. 6, but pollsters will keep in mind it was a tight game on the road against a quality foe.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Tennessee kept it close by outscoring A&M 16-0 off the bench.
HE SAID IT
“We’re not in this thing to win games. We’re in this thing to win championships.” — Blair on handing Tennessee its first loss.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols’ challenging road schedule continues when they play at No. 9 South Carolina on Sunday.
Texas A&M: The Aggies play a second consecutive home game when Georgia visits Reed Arena on Sunday.
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