Texas A&M avoids early exit with win
Elonu tied a career high with 23 points to advance Aggies
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- With top scorer Tyra White taking just two shots and second-leading scorer Kelsey Bone missing most of the ones she tried, Texas A&M needed someone else to step up.
Adaora Elonu was up for the challenge, tying a career high with 23 points as the Aggies fought off scrappy Arkansas for a 61-59 win in the second round of the NCAA tournament Monday night.
And with the game on the line with 23 seconds remaining, A&M’s best free throw shooter, Sydney Carter, hit the go-ahead foul shots.
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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.
The victory put the third-seeded Aggies (24-10) in the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years. The defending national champions will play No. 2 seed Maryland in the semifinals of the Raleigh Regional.
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair got the best of former assistant and current Arkansas coach Tom Collen in Blair’s first meeting with the Razorbacks since he left the school for A&M in 2003.
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 against Albany on Saturday, had just three points and eight turnovers in this one.
A pair of free throws by Ashley Daniels with 2:20 remaining cut A&M’s lead to 58-57 before the shot by Harris.
The Razorbacks were led by Williams, who had 14 points. Williams didn’t start, but also paced Arkansas in its first NCAA tournament game Saturday.
The Aggies led for most of the second half, but Arkansas used a 16-6 run to get within 55-53 with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. C’eira Ricketts powered the spurt with eight points and Harris started and ended it with 3-pointers.
Harris finished with 13 points, and Ricketts and Sarah Watkins had 10 apiece.
Blair coached Arkansas from 1993 until he was hired by A&M in 2003. Collen worked for him from 1993-97.
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.
The Razorbacks used a 6-0 run that included four points from Williams to shave a 13-point A&M lead to 44-37 midway through the second half. The Aggies responded by scoring six consecutive points, aided by a pair of Arkansas turnovers, to stretch the lead to 49-37.
Texas A&M opened the second half with a 9-2 run, led by six points from Elonu, to extend its lead to 36-22 with 17 minutes left. Arkansas scored five consecutive points after that to cut the lead to 36-27.
The Aggies led by nine early in the first half before Arkansas used an 11-2 run to take a 17-15 lead about seven minutes before halftime. Texas A&M got back on track after that and led 27-20 at the break.