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Defense helps carry Texas A&M women's basketball team past Southern 92-32
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Defense helps carry Texas A&M women's basketball team past Southern 92-32

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Southern U Texas A M Basketball

Texas A&M guard Sahara Jones (24) drives against Southern forward Jordan Aikens during the first half Thursday at Reed Arena.

The 23rd-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team turned up the defensive pressure for a stifling 92-32 victory over the Southern Lady Jaguars on Wednesday night at Reed Arena.

The Aggies (2-0) bolted to an 18-1 lead, forcing seven turnovers and causing Southern to miss its first seven shots. Things didn’t change as A&M rolled to a 43-9 halftime lead. Southern had 16 turnovers that A&M converted into 18 points, and the Lady Jaguars made only 2 of 15 shots in the first half.

“It started with our defensive intensity,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “We got into the passing lanes and were able to force 23 turnovers.”

Southern wasn’t able to run offensive sets with any consistency until the Aggies quit pressuring.

“The half-court trap is something we added, which we really didn’t have last year,” Blair said. “I’m able to bring so many guards off the bench. That settles them down on offense if they can play defense first.”

The Aggies picked up right where they left off after hitting a program-tying 12 3-pointers in their 87-54 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to open the season Wednesday. The Aggies hit 8 of 14 treys through three quarters led by Destiny Pitts, who made 4 of 6.

“I was open in space and my teammates found me,” Pitts said. “It was all about confidence.”

“Destiny can just flat out shoot,” Blair said. “She rarely takes a bad shot.”

The 5-foot-10 super senior also had a career-high seven rebounds to tie 6-foot-3 senior forward Aaliyah Patty for game-high honors as the Aggies had 45-22 edge in boards.

A&M junior point guard Jordan Nixon, who hit a trio of 3-pointers in the opener, hit the game’s first 3 off a Southern turnover for an 8-0 lead. Later in the game, Nixon bombed one in from well beyond the arc that brought a smile to Blair’s face.

“Kids live for those kind of moments,” Blair said.

Nixon ended with a game-high 13 points. Pitts added 12 and senior guard Kayla Wells had 10.

A&M wasn’t just sharp on 3-pointers. The Aggies hit 26 of 44 (59.1%) inside the arc. A&M made 21 of 27 layups and scored 24 second-chance points and 12 fast-break points.

All but one of the 14 Aggies who played scored with 11 of them shooting at least 50% from the field. Sophomore guard Sahara Jones had a career-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with five rebounds.

“We’ve been in the gym working on taking shots in game-like situations, so I think that since we took those same shots in the game tonight, it gave us a high motor and lifted our chances,” Jones said.

Sophomore forward Maliyah Johnson added 10 points for A&M, hitting 4 of 7.

“I like how Sahara and Maliyah played coming off the bench,” Blair said.

A&M’s lone hiccup was 10 turnovers in the first half.

“Their speed was unbelievable,” Blair said. “They had recovery speed. You think that you’re open, but they did a great job coming back.”

Freshman guard Aleighyah Fontenot had 11 points off the bench to lead Southern, hitting a trio of 3s on eight tries. The rest of the team was 1 of 10 in its season opener.

NOTES — Southern is picked by the coaches to finish third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference behind Jackson State and Alabama State. ... A&M will host DePaul at Reed Arena at 7 p.m. Monday. ... A&M received its 2020-21 Southeastern Conference regular-season championship rings before the game.

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