Blair gets 600th as No. 6 A&M tops Miss St 93-47By KRISTIE RIEKEN, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Nov 20, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Texas A&M coach Gary Blair prides himself on defense, so it was only fitting that he got his 600th career win on the day his Aggies played their best defensive game this season.
Kelsey Bone had 20 points and 13 rebounds to help No. 6 A&M handle Mississippi State for a 93-47 win Sunday.
“We build everything around the defensive end, it creates opportunities for us in transition and it teaches our kids to play hard,” Blair said.
Blair becomes the 22nd Division I coach to reach 600 wins and is one of 13 active coaches in the division to reach the mark. Blair had 210 wins at Stephen F. Austin and 198 at Arkansas before taking over in College Station in 2003 where he has 192 wins.
He was honored with a video played in the arena after the win that featured congratulations from several former players and his family. After the video, his team presented him with a bouquet of roses and a framed Texas A&M jersey bearing the number 600.
“That was really special,” he said of the presentation.
Bone was happy to be a part of Blair’s 600th win. She chuckled when Blair, who went door to door asking people to come to games when he arrived in College Station, was still angling to get more fans at the arena when speaking to the crowd following the postgame presentation.
“It couldn’t happen to a better person,” Bone said. “Coach Blair is probably the best in the business. In his speech he’s still marketing our next game. He’s selfless.”
Texas A&M (4-0), the defending national champion, was up by 25 points early in the second half before going on a 14-0 run that made it 65-26 and put the game out of reach. The Lady Bulldogs, who made just five field goals in the first half to get in an early hole, had four turnovers in that span.
Mississippi State (3-1) was led by Diamber Johnson’s 14 points.
Lady Bulldogs’ coach Sharon Fanning-Otis summed up her thoughts on her team’s play in one word.
“Embarrassed,” she said. “I hope it’s a lesson we can learn from. I hope any lesson where you have a setback, you can grow from that.”
Karla Gilbert added 12 points and Tyra White, and Adrienne Pratcher scored 11 points each for the Aggies.
Mississippi State couldn’t contend with Texas A&M’s stifling defense from the outset. The 6-foot-4 Bone made it nearly impossible for the Lady Bulldogs to get the ball in the lane for easy shots and they couldn’t hit from long range, going 1 of 14 from beyond the 3-point line.
They shot just 25 percent to A&M’s almost 56 percent and were forced into 18 turnovers. More than half of Johnson’s points came off free throws as she was just 3 of 16 on field goals.
Mississippi State’s 47 points were the fewest the Aggies have allowed this season.
“This is a program that’s been built on defense,” Bone said. “It’s exciting because it’s something that’s a big emphasis and that’s demanded here.”
Bone, in her first season with the Aggies after sitting out last year following a transfer from South Carolina, has improved in each game this year and Sunday was the 10th double-double of her career and first at Texas A&M.
“We’re getting Bone better every day on defense,” Blair said. “She makes mistakes, but she’s getting better.”
It was the first meeting between these schools who will play in the same conference next season when the Aggies leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
It’s Texas A&M’s last home game until the Aggies host No. 23 Southern Cal on Dec. 18. They will play five straight games away from College Station, starting with a post-Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas followed by games at No. 16 Purdue, No. 4 Connecticut and TCU.
Mississippi State scored first with a pair of free throws from Porsha Porter before Texas A&M scored 17 straight points, led by eight points from Bone to make it 17-2 about seven minutes into the game. Porter finished with 12 points.
The Lady Bulldogs missed their first 12 shots and didn’t get a field goal until a jump shot by Porter with less than nine minutes left in the first half. By then the Aggies had extended their lead to 25-6.
Mississippi State made just five baskets in the first half, but made 11 of 12 free throws to leave A&M ahead 43-21 at halftime.