USA basketball defeats Texas A&M Aggies during college tour

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 30: Texas A&M Aggies guard Chennedy Carter (3) dribbles the ball in game action during the Women's NCAA Division I Championship - Third Round game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Texas A&M Aggies on March 30, 2019 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 30: Texas A&M Aggies guard Chennedy Carter (3) dribbles the ball in game action during the Women's NCAA Division I Championship - Third Round game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Texas A&M Aggies on March 30, 2019 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Ogwumike & Diggins-Smith lead USA, Chennedy Carter shines for Aggies

The USA women’s basketball national team did what it was supposed to in College Station, picking up a 93-63 over the Texas A&M Aggies during the third of four fall NCAA exhibitions.

More from SEC

Skylar Diggins-Smith (19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) and Nneka Ogwumike (19p/3r/2a) led USA, while for A&M, Chennedy Carter’s 34 points were the most scored by a college player against Team USA since 1996.

“We appreciated coach Gary Blair letting us come here and play,” said Cheryl Reeve, who is leading Team USA during the fall games. “Each of the teams along the tour pose a different challenge. In this particular game it was a great player in Chennedy Carter, who can do a lot of different things. So that was really good for us, to be challenged. I know that she had a good time. But overall, our mission is to win the game.”

Sylvia Fowles finished with a double double (13p/13r) and Chelsea Gray added 10 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists for Team USA. Ciera Johnson pitched in 9 points and 2 rebounds for the Aggies and N’dea Jones grabbed 10 rebounds.

“It was very entertaining ball game. We played very good. I loved the experience; I loved the play of Chennedy Carter,” said Gary Blair. “This was a show, every team in the country was watching this tonight. Every pro scout and foreign team across the world was watching. This was closer to what they’re going to see at the Olympics, the speed, we ran some good sets, we got her some good looks and she created.”

Team USA will play No. 1 Oregon, for the last of its fall exhibition games, on Saturday. Texas A&M hosts Duke on Sunday.

General observations

The purpose for USA Basketball’s expanded women’s national team program, according to the announcement, was to give the team an opportunity to gel before preparing for Olympics (and by proxy pre-Olympic tournaments) by building chemistry and team visibility by practicing and playing together during a team where players would normally be playing overseas. But another notable benefit has been extended minutes for players who missed all or most of the 2019 WNBA season – Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Seimone Augustus, Diggins-Smith. As talented as they are, you can still see them working to get back into game flow together and individually.

Team USA looked a clunky still to start, given that players have gone from being opponents to teammates all while trying to make the final Olympic roster, some while having not played in months.  At halftime, Team USA led 45-35, and that wasn’t totally worrisome because USA usually does a slow build – they keep playing methodically with patience and before you know it the other team is winded they’re up 15 after a Diana Taurasi three pointer.

Against A&M, it was Diggins-Smith draining threes – and she blocked Aahliyah Jackson’s attempted three-pointer at the final buzzer. Diggins-Smith hit 5-of-8 threes against the Aggies.

“It’s good to be here and I’m just blessed to be here representing the USA,” Diggins-Smith said. ‘I’m playing with the best in the world, so it’s easy to play with great players. You have to give up a piece of yourself for the greater good of this team. The examples we have on this team, Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi), who’ve been doing it (a long time), they lead by example every practice. They set the tone every game. I’m just trying to follow their lead and get in where I fit in, whatever is necessary for the team that night.”

Two of Diggins-Smith’s threes were responses to threes from Carter, who was doing her best to keep the game within reach for as long as she could.

More on Carter and A&M

It is no surprise that Carter was all over the place – and she makes it look effortless. She looked a step faster than everyone to start, beat just about everyone off the dribble, and swarmed guards on the defensive end with her wingspan.

Carter had 13 first-quarter points, on 4-for-5 shooting, and 20 first points in the first half. She blocked out Fowles to prevent an offensive board, and blocked shots from both Fowles and Ogwumike. Despite having a brief bout of sickness early in the game – the broadcast said she puked – she ran the show.

“My teammates were doing the best job they could to get me open and give me easy looks,” Carter said. “So really, my teammates make the game easier for me. It was really a learning experience for me and my teammates. We’re really trying to get out there, and this was great preparation for us this upcoming season. I’m really glad we got to get out there and played some of the best players in the world.”

The exhibition was designed to provide learning lessons for both teams, and another question came to mind when the team went cold after a hot start. The Aggies only scored 9 points in the second quarter after Carter got sick, sat then returned.

Johnson scored 9 and Kayla Wells added 7, but there was no other true scoring threat from the Aggies. As expected, the Aggies had no answer for Ogwumike and Fowles physically and tactically inside and the team struggled to defend the pick and roll.

Blair said, “We needed to have got the ball to Ciera (Johnson) a little more, but I’d like to see one of y’all have Sylvia Fowles guard you and see how good you are in there. A little bit harder, but that’s why she’s a pro.”

By the fourth quarter, A&M were worn down. But it was all a learning experience ahead of Duke on Sunday.

“Guess what we’ll be doing tomorrow, practice,” said Johnson, who says Fowles gave her tips after the game. “Of course the game might be a little bit different than the pace of tonight’s game. It’s probably not going to be as fast, might not be as physical but Duke is a good team.”

Fun facts and reunions

  • The broadcast mentioned an anniversary: On this day in 1999, Team USA famously lost to Tennessee, 65-64, in a college exhibition game.
  • What a reunion it had to be for Fowles and Augustus, playing against Aggies’ assistant coach Bob Starkey, who coached the two WNBA and Olympic champions to much success while at LSU, as an assistant under the legendary Sue Gunter, Pokey Chatman and Van Chancellor, helping lead them to five straight Final Fours from 2004-08 (acting head coach in 2007). Guessing Starkey took care of those scouting reports.
  • Diggins-Smith and Ogwumike played against A&M for the first time since losing to the eventual champions in 2011

Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.