No. 7 Texas A&,M 82, Oklahoma St. 57
Gary Blair sees Maryann Baker as the type of player with a future in coaching because she's always asking him questions that start with ''Why?''
Baker provided all the answers Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 21 points with leading scorer Danielle Adams struggling to lead No. 7 Texas A&M past Oklahoma State 82-57 Wednesday night in its Big 12 road opener.
''She wants to know why to everything. Sometimes there's not a why, there's a how and you just make plays,'' Blair said. ''She made plays tonight.''
Tyra White added 20 points and a career-best 13 rebounds, and the Aggies (14-1, 2-0 Big 12) pulled away by following a burst at the end of the first half with dominant defense the rest of the way.
After going scoreless in the first half, Adams - the conference's scoring leader - had eight points during the Aggies' 20-6 run coming out of halftime. Texas A&M also scored the final seven points of the first half to start turning a close game into a blowout.
''It shows a lot about our team with Mary stepping up and a lot of other people stepping up when Danielle couldn't score,'' White said. ''It shows that we have a lot of threats on our team.
''You can't just stop one player. We have more than one.''
Adams, the nation's eighth-leading scorer with a 22.3-point average, finished with 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting for her 24th straight game in double figures.
Toni Young didn't start for the first time this season as Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke opened his lineup for competition, but she responded with 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Cowgirls (12-3, 0-2).
''I don't think anybody expected us to win that game. We came out in the first half and I thought we played really well. We stuck with them,'' said Lakyn Garrison, who had 11 points. ''We just made a couple little mistakes and let it get away from us.
''We've got to fight harder.''
Oklahoma State lost at home against A&M for the seventh straight season.
''I think this is A&M's best team that we've played,'' Budke said. ''His teams have always played aggressive, hard-nosed defense and this team, I don't know if it's his best defensive team but it's his best offensive team. And that might be what gets them over the hump and gets them to the Final Four because they've got a lot of weapons.
''To me, a legitimate top 5 team, Final Four team.''
Both teams got through nonconference play with identical 12-1 records - with Duke, currently ranked No. 3, providing the only loss for each team. At the start of Big 12 season, they seem to be headed in opposite directions.
Oklahoma State lost its conference opener by 18 at Kansas State and got blown out again with a trip to top-ranked Baylor looming Saturday.
The Aggies opened with a 28-point blowout against Colorado and followed up with another strong defensive performance with 12 steals - right at their average. Oklahoma State had just four assists while matching its season-high with 24 turnovers, but also forced 20 by Texas A&M.
''What A&M makes you do is absolutely concentrate on every offensive possession because if you don't, it's going to turn into a layup on the other end,'' Budke said.
Baker's 3-pointer with 6 minutes left before halftime broke a 20-all tie and put A&M ahead to stay, and the Aggies added to their lead behind White's quick six-point burst. She hit a 3-pointer from the left wing, then stole the ball on Oklahoma State's next possession and raced down to convert a three-point play and make it 29-22 with 4:16 left before halftime.
''I was just going out there just not expecting anything, just trying to do whatever our team needed,'' said Baker, who matched her previous career-best of 14 points in the first half. ''We got off to a slow start. Our shots weren't falling in the zone, I was able to hit a transition jumper and it just kind of got my game going.''
Texas A&M bumped its lead up to 44-31 with Baker's two free throws sandwiched between a jumper and a 3-pointer by Adoara Elonu to finish the first half with a 7-0 spurt. Oklahoma State got within 11 on Carolyn Blair-Mobley's basket to open the second half but was never closer.
Adams converted a three-point play off a putback, then hit a 3-pointer and the Aggies were soon scoring nine straight points to go up 61-35 on Baker's steal for a fastbreak layup.
Oklahoma State made only two baskets in the first 9 minutes of the second half before putting together an 8-0 run behind Garrison's 3-pointer and Young's three-point play. But even that short-lived comeback didn't get the Cowgirls back within striking distance.