Texas A&M's Howard and FSU's Thomas key in 2nd round matchup
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) When Texas A&M and Florida State meet in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday the game will feature two of the tournament's more athletic players in Aggies' freshman Anriel Howard and Seminoles' standout Shakayla Thomas.
Thomas has some internet buzz after the 5-foot-11 player posted video of herself dunking after practice on YouTube some time ago. But Howard's profile has risen this weekend after she set an NCAA tournament record by grabbing 27 rebounds in Texas A&M's first-round win over Missouri State on Saturday.
Though Thomas, who led Florida State (24-7) with 17.1 points a game in the regular season, has yet to successfully dunk in a game, the sophomore hopes to one day do it because it would make her the shortest woman to ever dunk in a college game.
Howard won't be dunking in practice or otherwise, but she also has rather impressive jumping skills, too, and is also a member of A&M's track team after winning the Georgia state triple jump title twice in high school.
''The great matchup is going to be Shakayla Thomas and Howard,'' Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said, adding that he recruited Thomas heavily. ''They're both 5-11. They can both jump out of the gym ... it's going to be a tremendous matchup - who can stay out of foul trouble.''
Florida State coach Sue Semrau raved about the rebounding skills of Howard, who also set A&M's single-game rebounding mark with Saturday's performance.
''She's so aggressive,'' Semrau said. ''She goes to the right places to rebound. Just for a freshman, she's just so savvy in those ways, and then obviously she's pretty powerful.''
Semrau also sees similarities in Howard and Thomas and thinks that might help the Seminoles on Monday.
''They're both tremendous athletes so we're used to seeing that at practice,'' she said. ''(But) it's tough to stop no matter what you do.''
Howard's big game combined with a 29-point outing by Courtney Walker helped the fourth-seeded Aggies overcome the suspension of starter Courtney Williams in their opening round game. Texas A&M (22-9) announced the indefinite suspensions of Williams and Shlonte Allen for a violation of team rules before Saturday's game, and Blair said the pair will also sit out on Monday.
The fifth-seeded Seminoles got 17 points from Leticia Romero and Thomas added 11 points with five rebounds in a 72-55 win over Middle Tennessee in the first round.
The winner of Monday's game advances to the Dallas Regional to face the winner of Sunday's Auburn-Baylor game.
Florida State: Semrau was asked if there's one thing her team must do to win on Monday. ''I'm not sure I could narrow it to one,'' she said. ''There's a lot of things we need to be able to do. It's never easy to come into somebody's home and win a basketball game.''... The Seminoles are looking for their second straight appearances in the round of 16 and fourth under Semrau. ... Florida State is 17-11 in the NCAA tournament under Semrau. ... The Seminoles reached the round of eight last season. ... The win on Saturday gave the Seminoles a victory in the first round in 12 straight trips to the tournament.
Texas A&M: Walker needs seven points to surpass Takia Starks (1,977) and become A&M's career scoring leader. Blair quipped about her chances of setting the record on Monday. ''If she doesn't break the record, we lose the game,'' he said. ... The Aggies are looking for their sixth appearance in the round of 16 in nine seasons and seventh overall. ... The Aggies are 7-1 in NCAA tournament games at home. ... Texas A&M is 6-3 in the second round of the tournament. ... Blair's 34 NCAA tournament wins are tied for seventh among active coaches. ... Walker's 29 points in the first round are the second-most in school history in the tournament behind the 30 Danielle Adams scored in the title game to give A&M a national championship in 2011. ...... Howard's 27 rebounds were four more than the previous NCAA tournament record set by Tennessee Tech's Cheryl Taylor in 1985.