COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Central Arkansas played even with No. 21 Texas A&M for a half, trailed by just three after three quarters, and were within three possessions with under three minutes to go on Saturday.
But the Sugar Bears’ bid for their first-ever upset of a Top 25 team fell short as the Aggies pulled away with eight points in a little over two minutes down the stretch to survive the scare 72-61.
"I think we played with a lot of heart," said UCA coach Sandra Rushing. "We made some mistakes, and Texas A&M is bigger, faster, and stronger. I have a lot of respect for Gary Blair. We definitely had no answer for the inside, absolutely no answer whatsoever. What a great atmosphere to play in front of. I’m glad that my young kids, and we played a lot of young kids, got the chance to play on the big stage."
The Sugar Bears (5-3) and Aggies (8-2) were knotted at 29 at the half after Central Arkansas held A&M to just six points in the second quarter – the Aggies’ lowest-scoring quarter of the season.
After shooting just 17.6 percent in the second quarter, A&M found its offense in the third as the Aggies shot 57.1 percent (8 of 14) and put up 20 points in the period. The Sugar Bears, however, matched them nearly blow for blow, shooting an identical 57.1 percent – but without any trips to the free-throw line, where A&M was four for four in the quarter.
Most of the difference in the fourth quarter came from the free throw line as well, as the Aggies outscored the Sugar Bears 23-15 in the final period with a 6-0 edge in points from free throws, going six for seven while the Sugar Bears were again held without an attempt.
The Sugar Bears shot 48.1 percent for the game while A&M finished at 46.0. The Aggies were 13 of 15 at the free throw line while the Sugar Bears were just four of five. Perimeter shooting was key for the Sugar Bears on Saturday as they knocked down 7 of 16 on their 3-point attempts (43.8 percent) while holding the Aggies to just 11.1 percent (1 of 9).
Senior forward Taylor Baudoin had 18 points, four rebounds, thre assists and a block in 38 minutes for UCA and sophomore guard Taylor Sells had 15 points. in eight minutes off the bench to lead the charge offensively for the Sugar Bear reserves, who outscored the Aggie bench 17-4.
"The last two ballgames Taylor Sells has done a great job of running the show," Rushing said. "She’s playing a lot of minutes and I know she’s tired, but she is a lot of fun to watch. Her speed is amazing. People can’t press us with her."
"Give Taylor Sells credit. She was the best player on the court today," said A&M coach Gary Blair. "We had not one single person that could stop her from penetrating and on the press situation she did a good job. That’s a very good sophomore. You have to understand, this team played without their second- and third-best players, who were suspended. Give them a lot of credit for kids stepping off the bench, came up and did some very good things."
"I told the team in the huddle that I’m having fun, this is fun," Rushing said." They’re playing hard and yeah, we made mistakes and turned the ball over, and we’ve got a lot of things to work on, but I’m really very proud of this team."