Elonu scores 23, Texas A&M women edge ArkansasBy KRISTIE RIEKEN, AP Sports Writer Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Sydney Carter missed all four of her shots from the field, committed two turnovers and was the only player coach Gary Blair wanted shooting free throws with the game on the line.
The senior drove the length of the court, drew a foul and made both free throws with 23 seconds remaining to help Texas A&M fight off scrappy Arkansas for a 61-59 win in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday night.
Carter went 6 for 6 at the line to move into a tie for first in school history with an 81.5 percent career free throw percentage.
“I was never more confident in my whole life of what we wanted to do,” Blair said of the play call.
The thought she could miss the shots never entered Carter’s mind.
“Not at all,” she said. “I knew that they wanted me to get to the line because they trust me at the line. Those are like layups for me.”
Tyra White, Texas A&M’s top scorer, attempted just two shots and second-leading scorer Kelsey Bone missed most of the ones she tried. But the defending national champions got a big boost from Adaora Elonu, who tied a career high with 23 points.
“She knew she needed to step up and make a difference,” Blair said. “Elonu was solid, making great decisions. It was one of her best ballgames under pressure.”
The sixth-seeded Razorbacks (24-9) had another chance after Carter’s free throws, but Quistelle Williams missed a short jumper. White was fouled on the rebound and made one of two free throws for the final margin.
“We got the shot we wanted, but it didn’t fall for us,” C’eira Ricketts said. “We couldn’t ask for a better look than what we got.”
The third-seeded Aggies (24-10) advanced to in the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years and will play No. 2 seed Maryland in the semifinals of the Raleigh Regional.
Blair got the best of former assistant and current Arkansas coach Tom Collen in his first meeting with the Razorbacks since he left the school for A&M in 2003.
Blair tried to downplay the importance of beating his former team before the game, but admitted how much he wanted this win afterward.
“This was more pressure than the national championship game,” Blair said. “I was in Arkansas for 10 years. I’ve got a lot of friends, I’ve got a lot of family and … I didn’t want to let the fans here down.”
Collen worked for Blair from 1993-97.
A jumper by Lyndsay Harris as the shot clock expired gave the Razorbacks their first lead of the second half, 59-58. Both teams missed layups on their next possession before Carter’s free throws.
Elonu was the only Aggies player to score in double figures. Bone had eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, but led the team with 10 rebounds.
White, who led A&M with 18 points in a 69-47 win over Albany on Saturday, had just three points and eight turnovers in this one.
Ashley Daniels’ two free throws with 2:20 remaining cut A&M’s lead to 58-57 before the shot by Harris.
Williams, a reserve, had 14 points for the Razorbacks.
The Aggies led for most of the second half, but Arkansas used a 16-6 run to close to 55-53 with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. Ricketts powered the spurt with eight points and Harris started and ended it with 3-pointers.
“We’re disappointed that we lost this game because we know we had a chance, but we had a good season and we’re going to keep our heads up,” said Collen, who led Arkansas to the tournament for the first time since 2003. “I’ve been through so much with this team in terms of the growing pains and the hard work in order to get where we’re at and gain the level of respectability we’ve always wanted to get back to the University of Arkansas.”
Harris finished with 13 points, and Ricketts and Sarah Watkins had 10 apiece.
This was the first meeting between these teams since 1991 and a preview of next season, when Texas A&M leaves the Big 12 to join the Razorbacks in the Southeastern Conference.
Entering the game, the Aggies had just two wins in 22 meetings with the Razorbacks, with both of them coming in 1988.
Texas A&M opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 36-22 lead with 17 minutes left. Elonu had six points in the spurt.