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Aggie Women at a Crossroads Moment as They Face Missouri

With two wins in their last eight games, Texas A&M is stumbling toward bubble status for the NCAA Tournament

Gary Blair must know his team’s season is at a crossroads. Defending their regular-season SEC crown is the least of the Texas A&M Aggies’ problems at the moment.

Between a month-long slump that has resulted in the Aggies falling to 11-7 (1-5 in SEC play) to a brutal first three weeks of SEC opponents, little has gone right for Texas A&M as it prepares to play a road game against Missouri on Sunday at 5 p.m.

The Tigers (14-5, 3-3) are in a bit of a valley themselves, having lost three of their last four games. But, the Tigers also have a claim that no one else in women’s college basketball can make thus far this season. The Tigers are the only team to beat No. 1 South Carolina, a 70-69 overtime win that came on Dec. 30 in both teams’ SEC opener.

Blair and the Aggies are trying to put the brakes on a month to forget.

A month ago the Aggies were 10-1, ranked in the AP Top 25 and rolling. Their only loss was one to Texas, a 76-60 defeat that came at the hands of one of Blair’s former assistants, Vic Schaefer.

But, on Dec. 12 in Fort Worth, Texas, something changed. The Aggies lost to TCU, 87-75, a team that was under-.500 at the time and remains under-.500 as it enters Saturday’s game with Texas.

Since then, the Aggies have lost six of their last eight games, with their only SEC win coming over Auburn, which has emerged as the SEC’s only remaining winless team in league play.

Now, as of Friday, the Aggies are one of the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN’s Bracketology.

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So are the Aggies a good team? Individually, the answer seems to be yes. Texas A&M has four quality scorers in Kayla Wells (16.4 per game), Jordan Nixon (11.9), Destiny Pitts (10.6), and Qadashah Hoppie (10.4). At 40 percent, they remain one of the SEC’s best 3-point shooters.

The Aggies’ issues may be inside. Right now Texas A&M is only outrebounding its opponents by less than three per game and the Aggies are being outrebounded on the offensive glass by nearly 20 boards this season. Those are small margins, but on the nights when the Aggies aren’t firing well from outside, those margins can be enough to make the difference.

Perhaps that can change against Missouri. But the Tigers won’t be easy to deal with. Even though they’re 1-3 against ranked opponents this season, the Tigers lost to No. 12 LSU by two points in overtime and to No. 5 Baylor by two points back in December. Only No. 13 Georgia managed to beat the Tigers by double-digits, and even then it was only by 10 points.

Aijha Blackwell, a 6-foot guard, is a big key to slowing down the Tigers. She leads the Tigers, averaging 16.9 points and 13.3 rebounds. As the Tigers’ next-best rebounder is Hayley Frank (4.8), keeping track of Blackwell after the Tigers have taken shots is key.

Frank also averages 15.7 points while Lauren Hansen averages 12.2 points.

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You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.