Aggies maul McNeese State for fifth straight first-round victory

BOSSIER CITY, La. -- When Texas A&M coach Gary Blair talks about bulky 6-foot-1 center Danielle Adams, he smiles and jokes that she thinks she's open "when she walks into the gym."

Certainly, Adams wasted little time dashing McNeese State's hopes of being among a select few teams who are tough enough to stop the Aggies star from dominating inside.

Adams scored 18 points and Texas A&M rolled to an 87-47 victory over McNeese on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

"I just had to come in and play my game, just play aggressive and be that dominant player that I am," Adams said. "I know my teammates are going to give me the ball, so I just have to go to work."

Kelsey Assarian and Tyra White each added 12 points for second-seeded Texas A&M (28-5), which raced to a 22-3 lead and led by 39 when Adams scored inside while being fouled five minutes into the second half. The victory moved Texas A&M into the second round at the Shreveport site and marked the fifth straight year the Aggies have gotten through the first round.

The Aggies will face seventh seed Rutgers (20-12), which rolled to a 76-51 victory over Louisiana Tech, in the Shreveport site's second-round game on Tuesday night.

Caitlyn Baggett scored 22 for McNeese State (26-7), which had a size disadvantage and struggled to stop the Aggies in the paint or in transition. Texas A&M scored 54 points inside, including 18 fast-break points.

Baggett's twin sister, Ashlyn, struggled more than usual, however, going 3 of 17 from the field and finishing with seven points, 10 below her team-leading average.

The Aggies also outrebounded McNeese State 45-25.

"Was there a size advantage?" McNeese State coach Brooks Donald Williams joked. "They're really tough. Not only are they bigger, but their strength is such mismatch. We certainly would have had to play our very best game defensively to be able to match them and we didn't. ... It certainly was a huge mismatch."

Adams was the main reason, hitting 6 of 11 shots despite being double and sometimes triple-teamed. She hit all six of her free throws, grabbed six rebounds and an assist.

"Danielle Adams is one of best players in the country hands down," Williams said. "We scouted a lot of games film and nobody stopped her and I'm not sure anybody can. She's a very versatile player. She can play in, play out ... she is very, very talented and she's gotten better, even from last year."

Ten Aggies players assisted on at least one basket as Texas A&M racked up a season-high 26 assists, also their most in a tournament game.

By contrast, McNeese State had only three assists as a team, tying a tournament record low set by Vanderbilt in a win over Stephen F. Austin in 1993.

Making its first NCAA tournament appearance on the heels of its first Southland Conference tournament championship, McNeese State struggled mightily in the opening minutes against an Aggies squad known for its all-court defensive pressure. The Cowgirls hit only one of their first 21 shots and turned the ball over six times in that span.

"Their on-the-ball defenders were so fast," Caitlyn Baggett said. "It kind of pushed us into taking shots we're not used to taking."

While McNeese struggled, it all looked too easy for the tournament savvy Aggies, who opened the game 14 of 27, with 28 of their first 30 points in the paint -- including 12 on fast breaks -- en route to a 30-6 lead.

"We always want to come out and attack [with] our defense and kind of put the pedal down," White said. "That's what we did with our full-court defense and I think that caused us to get out on the break a lot and get the runs we had."

Even when McNeese began to settle into a rhythm and score with more regularity, A&M was still too much.

After Ashlyn Baggett pulled the Cowgirls to 33-13 on a driving floater, Carter ignited a 6-0 spurt for the Aggies with a three-point play on a driving layup as she was fouled.

Adrienne Pratcher added a spinning dribble into the lane and a floater at the horn to give the Aggies a 41-15 lead heading into the locker room.

Pratcher got more playing time than usual because Aggies leading scorer Sydney Colson committed an early foul and later took a blow to the head. She returned to the game and Blair expected her to be fine.

A&M's lead never got below 28 in the second half and grew as large as 42 in the final minutes, at 85-43

Thanks to their dominance inside, the Aggies shot 56.9 percent (37 of 65) for the game despite going only 3 of 11 from 3-point range. Adaora Elonu had 10 points for A&M, which was also 10 of 11 from the foul line.