COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gary Blair saw things unfolding quickly, perhaps too fast for the some of his Texas A&M players late against No. 2 South Carolina.READ MORE: North Texas Businessman Ken Dunn One Of 4 Killed In Jet Crash
Backup guard Shlonte Allen was in after starter Jordan Jones fouled out only moments earlier — and it was Allen’s inexplicable foul with 0.9 seconds left in a tie game that led to South Carolina’s Khadijah Sessions’ game-winning foul shot in a 59-58 loss Sunday.
“She needs to be in more of those situations and I need to keep my point guard (Jones) from fouling out,” said Blair, the Aggies coach. Sessions “is too good of a player to miss two in a row.”
Sessions, after missing her first attempt, swished home the second one to keep South Carolina’s perfect, 17-0 season on track.
It wasn’t Texas A&M’s only late-game error, either, Blair said.
Jones missed the first of two foul shots with 4.5 seconds to go and Blair wanted her to miss the second so the Aggies could go after the rebound or a putback. Instead, Jones hit that try to get back within one.
Texas A&M eventually tied things with a perfect baseball throw that Chelsea Jennings caught up with and layed in. Right after that, Allen swarmed Sessions to send her to the line.
Given a second chance, Sessions came through by swishing home the second free throw for the dramatic win.
“I was shocked,” Sessions said. “I thought they were going to let the shot clock run out and go into overtime.”
So did Blair, who blamed himself for the late-game gaffe.
“That was not knowing the game,” he said. “We weren’t trying to steal the ball. As an athlete and as a coach, you live with that the rest of your life. I’ll take the blame because that was basically her first play of the game.”
Blair had just subbed Allen in after Jones had fouled out with 3.4 seconds remaining.
A’ja Wilson had 26 points, eight rebounds and matched her career best with eight blocked shots as South Carolina.
Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley acknowledged how hard it can be to keep fully aware of late-game status with players flying by everywhere and time dwindling down. She was more bothered by her team’s struggles to put the game away.
Wilson had a driving layup with 2:33 to go that gave the Gamecocks their biggest lead, 57-51. They missed the only shot they took after that. Tiffany Mitchell missed two foul shots. Wilson missed a foul shot.READ MORE: 'We Simply Have To Do More': Louisiana Governor Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate Due To COVID-19 Surge
After Sessions’ winning free throw, Mitchell picked off the inbounds pass to end things.
“As coaches you can review and go over late game situations,” Staley said. “As much as you do it, things can turn out looking like that. It’s so unpredictable.”
Jones had 17 points and Courtney Walker 16 to lead Texas A&M.
Texas A&M: Aggies standouts Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams rank first and third in active SEC points leaders. Walker has 1,714 points, a career average of 14 points a game. Williams has 1,330, 11.6 per game.
South Carolina: Gamecocks have won 13 of their 17 games this season by double digits, including four of five so far in SEC play.
Wilson is starting to assert herself in SEC play. The sophomore scored 26 points and had eight blocks for a second straight game after rallying the Gamecocks to a 73-62 win over No. 9 Kentucky this past Thursday night. Sessions said the reason is simple: “She’s finishing through contact.”
Blair expected his team to struggle some against the Gamecocks height with part of their gameplan being “HTM” — “Hope they miss,” Blair said.
South Carolina and Texas A&M came in as two of the top six scoring teams in the SEC. Both finished well below their average. The Gamecocks, averaging 78 points this season, were held to their lowest point total this year. The Aggies, going for nearly 75 points a game, were held in the 50s for the second time in three games after defeating LSU 53-35 last
Texas A&M takes on another ranked opponent, No. 24 Missouri, on Thursday night.
South Carolina travels to play Auburn on Thursday night.MORE NEWS: Willie Nelson Set To Perform At Billy Bob's Texas For 58th Time In November
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