COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was exhausted after a lackluster performance from his ninth-ranked team where the Aggies had to rally for the win.
“I don’t like to have to coach that hard,” he deadpanned. “But when you get zero execution in the first half because we refused to penetrate the zone it was just frustrating.”
Jordan Jones had 12 points and Curtyce Knox added a career-high 10, including a key basket late to help the Aggies to a 55-48 win over LSU on Sunday.
The Tigers led by as many as seven early and got within 2 twice in the game’s final minutes. The second time they had a chance to tie it, but Achiri Ade stole the ball from Danielle Ballard and Knox finished on the other end with a layup to make it 52-48.
“They continued to play hard, but we just played harder I think,” Knox said. “We wanted it.”
The Aggies (15-3, 3-1 SEC) added three free throws after that to secure the victory and help them bounce back from an 81-58 loss to No. 7 Tennessee on Thursday with their 12th straight win at home.
“When you don’t have your good game it’s tough and we had no game,” Blair said, summing up his team’s first-half performance.
Akilah Bethel led LSU (8-8, 2-2) with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Sheila Boykin had 11 points.
Ade finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and two blocks and Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams added eight points each.
The Tigers led by 1 when Texas A&M went on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer by Jones, to take a 47-41 lead with about six minutes left. LSU finally got going after that, using a 5-1 spurt to cut the lead to 48-46 with two minutes left. Courtney Williams pushed the lead back to four points with a layup soon after that.
Ballard had four points, seven rebounds and a block for LSU in her second game this season. The preseason All-SEC first-team selection missed the first 14 games because of a violation of unspecified team rules.
“I think she’s not the Danielle from the Sweet 16 but there’s a strength about her game,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “It allows us to play other people away from the ball. Having another ball-handler in there helped.”
The Aggies didn’t have a free throw attempt until Ade made one of two with less than 11 minutes remaining. That free throw was part of a 7-0 run that put A&M up 38-37 midway through the second half.
Texas A&M trailed by seven at halftime and was down by five before scoring five quick points to tie it at 31-all with about 15 minutes left. Knox started that run with a 3-pointer and Walker capped it by making a layup as she crashed to the court.
LSU answered that spurt by scoring the next six points to go back on top 37-31.
The Aggies scored the first six points of the game but LSU quickly erased the deficit with an 8-2 run to tie it at 8-8.
Texas A&M led by a basket soon after that before the Tigers scored seven straight points to take a 15-10 lead with about nine minutes left in the first half. The Aggies missed five shots and had three turnovers as LSU built its lead.
A layup by Williams got A&M within 3 about 4 1/2 minutes before halftime. But LSU ended the half with a 6-2 run to push the lead to 25-18 at halftime.
LSU: Sunday’s game was the first game in a stretch of three of four on the road for the Tigers. ... LSU’s bench outscored A&M’s 21-12.
Texas A&M: Blair is 13 wins away from becoming the 15th coach with 700 Division I victories. ... Ade has 10 or more rebounds in four straight games.
40 YEARS OF HOOPS: Texas A&M celebrated the 40th anniversary of women’s basketball at the university on Sunday with a reunion of former players at halftime. A video commemorating the history of the program was shown on the video boards at halftime before a number of former players were introduced. The video highlighted the many triumphs of the program, including the Aggies winning the national championship in 2011.
LSU: Visits Mississippi State on Thursday.
Texas A&M: Hosts Mississippi on Sunday.