COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Aaliyah Wilson scored 16 points, including a key basket late, as No. 10 Texas A&M outlasted Rice 57-53 on Sunday.
Nancy Mulkey made two free throws to get the Owls within 1 with less than a minute left. But Wilson made a jumper soon after that to make it 56-53 and Ciera Johnson added a free throw with 3 seconds left to secure the victory.
Jasmine Smith had 18 points to lead Rice (4-1) as the Owls lost for the first time this season.
The win is the eighth straight victory in the series for Texas A&M (8-0).
Coach Gary Blair knows his team wasn't perfect on Sunday, but he's thrilled to enter the Christmas break with an perfect record.
“There’s no way I expected us to be undefeated this time of year but I expected us to compete in every game," Blair said. “I’m very proud of this basketball team for all we’ve accomplished."
Wilson was proud of the way the Aggies played down the stretch after falling behind early.
“We still have a lot of things to fix but I think we did a good job of finishing up," she said.
She believes the key to the win was the the team's defense after halftime.
“We just have to be strong defensively to finish the plays... we’ve got to be able lock in and stay locked in," she said.
Texas A&M was up by 8 after two free throws by Johnson with about 6½ minutes left in the fourth quarter. India Bellamy scored the next five points for the Owls to get them within 50-47 a couple of minutes later.
The Owls used a 4-0 run to cut the lead to 52-51 with less than 1½ minutes to go. Kayla Wells made a layup for the Aggies to extend the lead to 3 with about a minute left.
Rice led 28-24 at halftime after Smith scored 11 points in the first half.
After three straight blowouts, Sunday's game was a good test for the Aggies as they head toward the start of SEC play.
“Sometimes playing ugly at times is good because you have to execute," he said.
Blair complimented his younger players on staying focused and engaged while his veterans get the bulk of the playing time for now. Because he knows that he could need those women as the season wears on.
“This is a team that is sharing responsibility and load... they’re willing to wait and develop during practice and hope for their minutes," he said.
RICE: The Owls don’t play again until Jan. 1 when they play the first of two consecutive games at Texas-San Antonio.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies are off until Dec. 28 when they host Northwestern State in their last non-conference tuneup before opening SEC play against Tennessee on Dec. 31.