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Late Basket Gives Texas A&M Victory
March 13, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -Danielle Gant made plenty of big plays in high school in Oklahoma City. She returned with Texas A&M to make another one in the Big 12 Conference tournament quarterfinals.

Gant had 22 points and 14 rebounds and made the go-ahead basket with 25.3 seconds left as No. 10 Texas A&M held off No. 22 Kansas State 63-61 Friday. The 5-foot-11 senior forward went 9-of-13 from the field as Texas A&M (24-6) beat the Wildcats for the second time this season and advanced to play No. 3 Oklahoma in the semifinals on Saturday.

Texas A&M dealt the Sooners their only conference loss during the regular season, 57-56 on Feb. 23 in College Station, Texas. The Aggies will be making their fourth straight appearance in the semifinals.

"A great game for Big 12 basketball," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "People look and say, why do we play conference tournaments? That's why you play conference tournaments. ... You have championships to win. Okay, a lot of coaches think they're useless (but) I think there's an opportunity to get better as a basketball team and improve your seed."

Takia Starks added 13 points for Texas A&M, which won the conference tournament last year and played in Oklahoma City during the NCAA tournament, reaching the round of eight before falling to eventual champion Tennessee.

Ashley Sweat scored 19 points but missed a last-second 10-footer that would have sent the game into overtime. Marlies Gibson led Kansas State (24-7) with 22 points, 16 of those in the second half. The Wildcats will find out Monday where they will head for the NCAA tournament.

"You have to take the good from whatever situation you're faced with," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. Being eliminated in the quarterfinals "will certainly give us an opportunity for rest."

Texas A&M made eight of its first 10 shots and shot 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the field in the first half. Kansas State kept pace for a while, and led by one point on two occasions, the last at 20-19 on a basket by Kelsey Nelson with 8:21 left in the half.

But an 11-2 run near the end of the half built the Aggies' lead to 10 points and they were up 36-28 at halftime. Starks scored 11 in the half for Texas A&M.

The Aggies started the second half 5-of-19 from the field, and the Wildcats went ahead 48-46 on a basket by Gipson with 10:32 left.

After that, neither team led by more than three points and the lead changed hands nine times as the two veteran teams -- each started three seniors and a junior -- vied to take control.

Sweat tied the game at 61 with two free throws with 43.9 seconds left. After each team called a timeout, Gant took an inbounds pass and stood near midcourt for several seconds before driving for a basket past two defenders.

"Coach wanted the ball in my hands and I could get to the hole," Gant said.

She said she performs better when playing in her hometown.

"A lot of family and friends that seen me growing up have never seen me play at the college level," she said. "So just coming home, playing for family and friends is a great feeling and making that winning basket is also a great feeling."

Blair said that at times during the game, Gant had to guard every Kansas State player.

"She just has that mentality that refuses to lose," he said.

After Gant's basket, at the other end, point guard Shalee Lehning had the ball knocked away while driving into the lane. She scrambled to retrieve it and passed to Sweat, whose shot went off the back of the rim, into the air, and off the rim again.

"In practice, they always hit the back rim and fall in," Lehning said.

Starks left briefly in the final minutes with a leg cramp but returned to finish the game. Texas A&M shot 27-of-57 from the field (47.4 percent). Adaora Elonu and Tanisha Smith scored 10 points each for the Aggies.

Kansas State hit 24-of-49 shots (49 percent) but went just 1-of-9 from 3-point range. Lehning had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Wildcats.

Texas A&M beat the Wildcats 71-45 in Manhattan on March 1, in Lehning's second game back after missing three games because of mononucleosis. That was the difference in the Aggies receiving the fourth seed in the conference tournament -- and thus a first-round bye -- while Kansas State was fifth and had to play in the opening round, beating Colorado.

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