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Cessna: Texas A&M women's basketball team needs a bounce-back effort

Cessna: Texas A&M women's basketball team needs a bounce-back effort

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Texas A&M women’s basketball coach Gary Blair has work to do if his final season is going to be a highly successful one.

The 25th-ranked Aggies headed into Southeastern Conference play looking to put together four solid quarters but in two games have played four of their worst quarters.

A&M had a 49-46 lead after three quarters at LSU but stumbled down the stretch as the Tigers won 75-66. A&M played a solid first quarter at seventh-ranked Tennessee but did little afterward as the Lady Vols rolled to a 73-45 victory. It was A&M’s worst loss since falling 92-64 to fifth-ranked Mississippi State three years ago and its fewest points since a 75-43 loss at UCLA in the second round of the 2017 NCAA tournament.

“We’re embarrassed about the loss as a team, but we will be back,” Blair said. “Watch us Sunday.”

A&M (10-4, 0-2) will have a chance to regain its confidence against Florida (10-5, 0-2), which is the SEC’s worst team in the NCAA NET rankings at No. 95.

“We’ve got to get better,” Blair said. “I’ve got some kids that are in a slump right now.”

Junior point guard Jordan Nixon tops the list. In the last two games she’s missed 19 of 21 field goals with six assists and four turnovers. Nixon has to play better for the Aggies to win, but she’s not the only one.

A&M made only 6 of 20 field goals (30%) in the last quarter against LSU and was 9 of 52 (17.3%) in the last three quarters against Tennessee.

“The energy and effort just wasn’t there [against Tennessee], and that’s just unacceptable for us playing in the SEC,” A&M graduate guard Destiny Pitts said.

Pitts helps make A&M one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams, a skill that gives A&M the potential to beat anyone. But the Aggies have to play better defense, operate more soundly in their half-court offense and play better in the paint to win consistently.

“Collectively, we can be a pretty good basketball team,” Blair said.

The SEC coaches picked A&M to finish second behind South Carolina, while the media had Tennessee second and A&M third. The Aggies thus far have failed to live up to their billing. They are 0-3 against ranked teams and suffered a bad loss to TCU, which is 164th in the NET rankings.

A&M is 35th in the NET rankings — seventh best among SEC teams. Sunday’s matchup with Florida is a must-win game for the Aggies, who are scheduled to play at top-ranked South Carolina on Thursday.

After playing the Gamecocks, A&M has a seven-game stretch that could define its season. They are all winnable games with Arkansas (No. 29) and Ole Miss (No. 34) the only teams ahead of the Aggies in the NET rankings.

Blair said the Aggies are not overrated. They just have to look in a mirror and fix what’s wrong.

“If this is my last ride, I want my kids and myself to be able to give everything we have,” Blair said.

NOTES — A&M no longer leads the nation in 3-point shooting after missing its last nine against Tennessee. A&M is third at 41.3%, trailing Tulsa (41.9%) and Northern Arizona (41.8%). ... A&M has won 11 of 12 against Florida, including the last six. ... Florida is coming off a 74-56 loss to Ole Miss in which it was missing five players. The Gators didn’t make a 3-pointer, snapping a 131-game streak of hitting at least one trey. ... Florida announced Friday that junior guard Lavender Briggs will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in her lower leg. Briggs was averaging 12.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories.

Robert Cessna’s email address is


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