HOUSTON -- Texas A&M got a win and also learned how much it has to improve.
Chennedy Carter scored 29 points and Ciera Johnson made a layup with 9 seconds left to give No. 5 Texas A&M a 62-61 victory over Rice on Sunday.
“We are going to have to get a lot better than what we played tonight to even start thinking about conference championships,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “We had the game in hand, with a seven-point lead, and we couldn’t finish it because of Rice, because of foul trouble on our part.”
Carter, the preseason Southeastern Conference player of the year, was 11 of 27 from the field, including 4 of 8 on 3-pointers. She scored 17 points in the first quarter, outscoring the Owls by herself, as Texas A&M built a 24-14 lead.
“When Chennedy is under control and plays as unselfish as she’s capable she might be the best guard in the country,” Blair said.
Kayla Wells added 19 points for Texas A&M (3-0), which shot 39 percent from the field. The Aggies forced Rice into 19 turnovers, which turned into 19 points.
“We knew we were going to have to fight,” Wells said. “We were going to have to fight hard because every time we play Rice, it always to the wire, so we knew what we were up against.”
Blair lamented chances Texas A&M had throughout to put distance between themselves and Rice.
“We’ve got to do a better job, especially in crucial situations, particularly when we get to a Mississippi State or a South Carolina where there’s 14,000 and 18,000 at the game, being able to keep our calm and poise, and we were not keeping our calm and poise very much,” Blair said.
After Rice had regained a one-point lead, Shambria Washington missed a corner 3-pointer, but Johnson grabbed the rebound and put it in for the lead.
“We got the timely offensive board,” Blair said. “Instead of being a rim shooter, she was smart enough to use the glass.”
Sydne Wiggins last second 3-pointer missed.
Lauren Schwartz had 19 points, and Wiggins added 13 points for Rice (2-2), which shot 38 percent from the field. Scoring leader Erica Ogwumike was in foul trouble and had nine points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re just learning each,” Rice coach Tina Langley said. “I think we have a new team, and as we get together on the court more and more the experience is going to be a great teacher for us.”
Texas A&M: For a second straight game, the Aggies were tested, but this time it was for a full four quarters. Texas A&M held a 34-18 advantage in points in the paint, but had difficulty finding scoring from anyone other than Carter and Wells as the rest of the team shot 6 of 22 from the field.
“We couldn’t get Wells enough touching,” Blair said. “We got nothing offensively out of our four position the whole game, and they weren’t guarded by (Nancy) Mulkey. We got to do better at that position.”
Rice: The Owls, which received votes in the latest rankings, outscored the Aggies, 24-13, in the third but couldn’t keep that momentum into the fourth as they scored eight points on 3 of 15 shooting. Rice, the preseason favorite to repeat as Conference USA champions, has not beat a Top 25 team since Dec. 1, 2006, when they defeated Texas A&M.
HE SAID IT
“I didn’t call a very good game offensively,” Blair said. “Obviously, the Cowboys didn’t call a very good game offensively, but they won and we won.” – Blair on his play calling
Texas A&M should maintain its ranking.
Texas A&M: At Southern California on Saturday.
Rice: At Oklahoma State on Saturday.