By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – This Midwestern burg is known for many things but jazz and basketball are certainly near the top of the list.
A trio in jazz can make some sweet music. So can a trio in basketball. Texas A&M proved that Sunday afternoon in winning the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Championship at historic Municipal Auditorium.
The third-seeded Aggies (25-7), behind their Kansas City Trio, outlasted fourth-seeded Oklahoma, 74-67, to win their second Big 12 Tournament title. The other occurred here in 2008, so KC is OK for TAMU.
“Kansas City has been good to me,” said Texas A&M’s Gary Blair, who coached Arkansas to the 1998 Final Four here. “I always eat very well here and our team has played well here.”
The trio – senior Tanisha Smith, junior Danielle Adams and sophomore Tyra White – enjoyed their homecoming by combining for 43 points and 20 rebounds. They helped offset a box score-stuffing effort by OU senior Amanda Thompson – 20 points, 19 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
Adams, named the Big 12 Tournament’s most outstanding player, didn’t enter the game until 14 minutes had gone by in the first half but she finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. White, who scored her 16 points in the first half against OU, was also on the all-tournament team.
“I was really emotional,” said Adams, the national junior-college player of the year last season. “I’ve never won a championship in my life.”
Once she got in the game, Adams seemed to be scoring, rebounding or defending at key times.
“She has a a high basketball IQ,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “That’s what players are missing sometimes.”
Oklahoma (23-10) spent the game pushing a large rock up a steep hill. The Sooners started the game missing 10 of their first 11 shots. OU started the second half making just three of its first 11 shots. Despite that ineffectiveness, the Sooners were never out of the game.
“We played a lot of zone, not to save our legs but because they’re not a great outside shooting team,” Blair said. “We had to play to stop their strengths.”
Texas A&M shot 51.7 percent in the first half and made six of their last seven 3-point attempts. That accuracy helped offset OU’s improved shooting, which recovered to make 14-of-20 the rest of the half. The Aggies led 30-34 at halftime.
Oklahoma managed to force four ties in the second half but were never able to take the lead. Considering the Sooners shot 27.8 percent after the break, it’s amazing they were that close. They also had 10 point-blank opportunities when they failed to score.
“Over the last eight minutes they had some point blank ones they just flat missed,” Blair said.
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale explained the misses this way. “We were just dead-dog tired and we fought and fought and fought,” she said. “Amanda Thompson is absolutely spent. A&M just shot it a little better than we did today.”
Both teams were playing their third game in three days. The Aggies displayed depth, with eight players logging at least 12 minutes. The Sooners had two players – Thompson and Danielle Robinson (18 points) play 40 minutes.
Texas A&M knocked off Big 12 regular-season champion Nebraska in the semifinals. The Huskers are expected to be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced Monday. The seven teams the Big 12 is expected to place in the field now go into survive and advance mode.
“It was a fantastic women’s basketball game and it showcased our leage to the country in a magnificent way,” Coale said. “If A&M plays like that, they’ll be in San Antonio and so will we. That’s the quality of this game.”
Big 12 Championship All-Tournament team
Danielle Adams, Texas A&M*
Tyra White, Texas A&M
Amanda Thompson, Oklahoma
Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma
Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State
* - most outstanding player.