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No. 5 Texas A&M women's basketball team uses big finish to hold off Ole Miss

No. 5 Texas A&M women's basketball team uses big finish to hold off Ole Miss

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Texas AM Mississippi Basketball

Texas A&M center Ciera Johnson (40) and Mississippi guard Mimi Reid (2) battle for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

OXFORD, Miss. — The Texas A&M women’s basketball team took over when they had to.

Senior guard Kayla Wells had 18 points and eight rebounds and the fifth-ranked Aggies dominated the fourth quarter in taking a 66-55 Southeastern Conference victory over Mississippi on Sunday.

The Aggies won their eighth straight game, but the Rebels (9-9, 3-11) kept it competitive into the fourth, trailing just 44-39. Then it was all A&M.

“I just feel like we really know how to finish the game now,” Wells said. “We’ve done it time after time. And it’s almost like something that we have to do. It’s almost mandatory.”

Already off to the program’s best start through 20 games, the Aggies (20-1, 11-1) secured their 16th consecutive season with at least 20 wins.

Wells only shot 5 of 16 from the floor but made 7 of 8 free throws. Senior shooting guard Aaliyah Wilson had a huge all-around game with 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals. Sophomore point guard Jordan Nixon scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter when A&M led by as many as 15.

A&M senior post Ciera Johnson scored only five points but the last one was the 1,000th of her career. Senior guard Destiny Pitts came off the bench to hit a trio of 3-pointers.

Junior forward Shakira Austin got her fifth straight double-double to lead Ole Miss, the first Rebels player to do that in SEC games since Armintie Price in 2007. The transfer from Maryland had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Taylor Smith had 12 points on 3-of-6 3-pointers. The rest of the team made only 1 of 9 from long range. Freshman forward Madison Scott finished with 10 points.

Nixon and junior reserve guard Zaay Green helped turn the game into a comfortable win.

Green, the transfer from Tennessee, hit the Aggies’ first three baskets of the fourth — and her first three in the game.

“She hadn’t forgotten how to play ball,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “She just needed more opportunities. But as well as Wilson and Pitts and Wells have been playing, sometimes you’ve got to earn those opportunities or wait for those opportunities.

“She knew exactly what to do when she came into the ball game.”

After Green’s baskets, Nixon hit three straight layups and a free throw in a quick nine-point A&M flurry, over a span of just 1 minute, 49 seconds.

Johnson’s putback with 2 seconds left in the third quarter gave A&M a 44-39 lead after the Rebels had erased most of a 10-point deficit.

That momentum carried over into the fourth.

“There was a stretch where A&M showed their maturity in the fourth quarter and just pulled away from us,” Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “And we didn’t answer the call.”

A&M had to rebound from a slow start after missing all five 3-point attempts and four of six free throw attempts in the opening quarter. The defense remained strong, helping the Aggies build a 26-23 halftime edge. Ole Miss made just 5 of 14 shots in the fourth quarter. The Rebels won the rebounding battle 43-34 with Austin having 10 and sophomore guard Donnetta Johnson nine. Ole Miss had a 34-24 edge in paint points, but the Aggies had a 16-8 edge in points off turnovers, forcing Ole Miss into 18 mistakes. A&M held Ole Miss to its fewest points this season.

NOTES — A&M had played its last four games at home. Its last road trip was against Auburn on Jan. 28. The Aggies will be at Alabama on Thursday. “It definitely felt different,” Wells said. “It’s been a really long time since we’ve been on a plane or been on a bus on the way to some place. ” ... Wilson matched her career highs in assists and steals.

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