Bulldogs bounced from SEC Women’s Tournament

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, March 7, 2024

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Texas A&M left inflated and Mississippi State deflated in a battle of bubble teams at the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament.

Aicha Coulibaly scored 17 points, Janiah Barker added 15 points and nine rebounds and ninth-seeded Texas A&M defeated eighth-seeded Mississippi State 72-56 on Thursday in a second-round match-up.

The Aggies (19-11) beat the Bulldogs (21-11) in the tournament for the second season in a row. Texas A&M advanced to play the nation’s top-ranked team, South Carolina, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Gamecocks won the regular-season meeting 99-64.

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“The first game wasn’t the best. Didn’t have the best outcome,” Coulibaly said of facing South Carolina again. “We’ve got to come out and fight like every minute of the game. Just follow the game plan and stay composed and play our game, not get intimidated.”

The Bulldogs, who beat the Aggies 76-63 in February, lost their opening game of the tournament for the fourth straight season and might have seen their NCAA Tournament hopes take a hit.

Entering the tournament, Mississippi State was listed as one of the last four teams projected to make the 68-team NCAA field and Texas A&M was one of the first four out. A convincing win by the Aggies might have switched those places.

Mississippi State has lost six of its last seven games. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on March 17.

Bulldogs coach Sam Purcell said he thinks his team’s overall resumé — which includes conference wins against LSU and Ole Miss, both of which are top-four seeds in the SEC Tournament — will convince the NCAA selection committee to give them a shot.

“Last year, we were first team, the play-in game, and we made history. You look at what we did in the SEC. We beat two of the top three teams in this conference, the top two of the three. Then we’ve had huge games at Belmont, Colorado State, then went on a week like no other where we beat LSU, Kentucky and Texas A&M in one week,” Purcell said. “I think the committee will do their job. They’ll look at how good we are. That’s why we’re going to rest up, have faith, and be ready when our name is hopefully called here on Sunday.”

Endyia Rogers scored 12 points for the Aggies, who never trailed. They broke the game open by outscoring the Bulldogs 26-14 in the third quarter behind 56 percent shooting, led by Barker’s eight points.

Both teams shot just 31 percent in the first half with the Aggies using their advantage on the glass to grind out a 25-21 lead. They finished with a 40-32 rebounding edge.

Jessika Carter and Darrione Rogers scored 12 points each for the Bulldogs. Carter also had 12 rebounds.

“We couldn’t make any shots today. It wasn’t our night tonight,” said MSU’s Lauren Park-Lane, who scored eight points.