BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The No. 13 Texas A&M women's basketball team cemented its first victory of the 2020-21 season, pushing past the Lamar Cardinals 77-61 behind senior center Ciera Johnson, who dominated the paint with a career-high 18 rebounds Wednesday afternoon at Reed Arena.
Multiple Aggies finished with new career-highs, led by N'dea Jones' 25-point performance on a .750 shooting clip from the field, surpassing her previous high of 22 set last season. The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native also pulled in 11 rebounds on the afternoon, earning her first double-double of the season and 27th of her career.
Johnson secured 18 boards along with 18 points. Her double-double marks the 19th such accomplishment of her career.
The duo of Jones and Johnson outrebounded the Cardinals as a team, 29-28, and propelled an offense that scored 38 points in the paint.
Kayla Wells became the 32nd member of Texas A&M's 1,000-point club. The Dallas, Texas, native entered the game two points shy and finished with eight to push her career total to 1,006.
The Aggies received contributions from their newcomers, with Jordan Nixon recording a new career high in assists as A&M's primary ball handler, tallying six in her first game in Aggieland.
Destiny Pitts finished with 11 points on three made 3-pointers, leading all A&M bench players.
Johnson scored the Aggies' first points of the season, but Lamar managed to pull ahead to lead 20-17 after the first quarter. The Maroon & White fought back in the second period, holding the Cardinals to 1-11 on field goal attempts in the final seven minutes of the half.
On the offensive end, Jones drew multiple fouls and lit up the scoreboard to produce a 36-27 A&M lead at halftime.
Pitts took the lid off the basket in the third quarter, scoring all 11 of her points in the period to extend the Aggie lead to 64-49, heading into the fourth.
The Aggies remained on top in the final period and closed out the game, 77-61.
As a team, Texas A&M polished the glass against Lamar, outrebounding the Cardinals by a margin of 55-28. Excellent work on the offensive boards saw the Aggies capitalize on multiple second chance scoring opportunities, beating Lamar 21-8 in the category.
- With Wednesday's win, Texas A&M extends its win streak in season-opening games to eight, a record dating back to the 2013-14 season.
- The battle down low favored the Aggies as well, scoring 38 points in the paint compared to the Cardinals 22.
- With the victory, A&M climbs to 16-10 in the all-time series against Lamar.
- The Aggies opened the season with a starting lineup of Aaliyah Wilson, Jordan Nixon, Kayla Wells, N'dea Jones and Ciera Johnson.
- N'dea Jones started her 65th consecutive game for the Aggies, finishing with 25 points, 11 rebounds and a block.
- Jones surpassed her career-high in points, scoring 25 on Wednesday afternoon. Her previous career-high mark was 22 points in A&M's 84-77 win over No. 20 Arkansas on Jan. 2, 2020.
- Jones notched her 27th career double-double and first of the year.
- Ciera Johnson scored first for the Aggies in the 2020-21 season, going on to finish with 18 points and 18 rebounds along with two assists. Johnson logged a new career high in rebounds against Lamar, finishing with 18 total boards split between 6 offensive rebounds and 12 on the defensive end. Her previous career high was 17.
- Johnson submitted her first double-double of the season and the 19th of her career. The Duncanville, Texas, native recorded six double-doubles in 2019-20.
- Destiny Pitts led the Aggie bench in scoring with an 11-point flurry in the third quarter. She recorded all three of Texas A&M's 3-point field goals.
- Aaliyah Wilson notched her 19th career start at Texas A&M, scoring nine points, securing seven rebounds and adding a pair of assists. Jordan Nixon earned the first start of her career at Texas A&M, logging four points, six assists, and two rebounds. Her assist total surpassed a career-high of five, set during her time at Notre Dame.
- Head Coach Gary Blair got his first win of the season against former Aggie standout and Lamar head coach A'Quonesia Franklin. His career record after Wednesday's game rises to 814-330. UP NEXT The No. 13 Aggies hit the road for the first time in the 2020-21 season to visit the No. 19 DePaul Blue Demons. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
POSTGAME QUOTES TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Gary Blair
Opening Statement : "I thought they [Lamar] competed harder, particularly in the first half. We were able to get the game going our way in the second quarter when we started realizing the jump shots were not going to fall, and to get the ball inside no matter what because they didn't have the size to be able to stop us or block shots. We've got to get ready within our team and be able to compete better. We were able to see our weaknesses in dribble drive penetration, which Lamar did an excellent job on.
"Our defense is a pack line defense. We're good at it, but tonight we got exploited a little bit. I think if we would have played harder, we would have been able to force more turnovers. They only turned the ball over 16 times against No. 13 team in the country. If they had a better shooting percentage maybe it would have been a two or three possession ballgame.
"But I give credit to Ciera and N'dea, when they realized how we were struggling, they started scoring easier and we started getting the ball inside. We're trying to find that right point guard that can keep us in an offense and recognize what the defense is going to give us and what they're going to take away. I was pleased with Jones and Johnson. I wasn't pleased with myself that I had to play both of them almost 35 minutes. I needed some other kids to have some playing time, but we had to win the ball game, and we would not have won it getting into an up and down game with Lamar. They were quicker and quite personally better coached today than I coached this team.?
On the contributions from A&M's post players... "We did get the ball up and down the court a little bit better, but we were throwing it away. We were able to attack them a little bit better in transition to get some easy baskets. I like that our post players can play that many minutes because they're used to it. But, in pre-conference, you don't need your post players playing 35 minutes. That being said, if that's what it's going to take to get those other players ready and for us to win, I'll do it."
On coaching against former player A'Quonesia Franklin... "It was special because I respect her preparation for the game. She's going to be better. She's not going to finish eighth in the Southland Conference. If she can keep those seven or eight players that she had out there today, then she's going to be in the top half of their league. It was emotional, but it was very rewarding. That's how much love we have for each other. She was the first point guard that I ever recruited here."
Senior center Ciera Johnson
On the difference between the first and second quarter... "In the second quarter, what looked better was that we were just much more active on defense. We were getting our hands on the balls, we were in the gaps and playing our principals. We were following the scouting report in the second quarter. I thought we really got after it. Our energy and intensity picked up a lot in the second quarter."
On her and N'dea Jones getting double doubles... "We know N'dea was going to get a double-double. It's her senior year and that's what she does. That's to be expected from N'dea. It feels good to start that way in our senior year, we both started off with a double-double and we just have to build off that."
Senior forward N'dea Jones
On first game jitters... "Yeah, first games are challenging for everybody, especially given what we've been going through battling our own challenges. I think the in first quarter there were some nerves. It felt weird being back on the court after 264 days. It didn't feel real at first. I'm glad we got the win. We probably did not play as well as we would have wished, but like I said, it's the first game. We have a lot to learn from and we have a lot more games to do it."
On the dynamic of the new squad... "We have a lot of new people on our team, so they're not used to being out there. A lot of times that's their first big stage that they've played on. It's a lot of nerves and then you have to account for people not knowing how to play with each other. That being said, it's going to come as time goes on."
The No. 13 Aggies hit the road for the first time in the 2020-21 season to visit the No. 19 DePaul Blue Demons. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.