COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) A record setting performance by freshman Anriel Howard helped Texas A&M overcome the suspension of two of its players.
She set an NCAA Tournament record with 27 rebounds, Courtney Walker scored 29 points and Texas A&M overcame the suspension of starter Courtney Williams to beat Missouri State 74-65 in the first round Saturday.
Howard credits her success on the boards to wanting to play hard for her mother on a special day.
''About 10 years ago my mom, she was in the hospital, and her line was flat,'' Howard said. ''So March 19th has always been a day for sacrifice and accomplishment with her and I, and a lot of other things have happened on March 19th. That one, of course, is the one that sticks out the most, and I just really did it for her. I didn't know I had it in me, but I played really hard for her, and I'm glad I could get the accomplishment for her.''
Before the game the fourth-seeded Aggies suspended Walker and Shlonte Allen indefinitely for a violation of team rules. They are eligible to practice with the team while suspended. Coach Gary Blair said they wouldn't play Monday in the second round game against Florida State.
''I've been in this position when Courtney Williams was out with a back injury,'' said senior Chelsea Jennings. ''So I'm used to being in this position. It brought no extra nervousness or anything like that. And just A&M is known for the 12th man. And we have a senior leader that's down right now, and we all stepped in, and we did our part, and we're going to keep going.''
Howard shattered the NCAA record for rebounds of 23 set by Cheryl Taylor in 1985 for Tennessee Tech against Georgia. She also had nine points, narrowly missing a double-double. The rebound total was the most ever by an A&M player, besting the previous record of 21 set by Michell Tatum in 1985.
Walker scored 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting to lead all scorers.
Missouri State came out of halftime down 25-23, but a 29-point third quarter by the Aggies created a margin too large to overcome.
''Obviously, we were able to play with Texas A&M for large portions of the game,'' said head coach Kellie Harper, Jjust not 40 minutes. They were able to score quite a bit there in that third quarter. That just put us behind the 8-ball.''
Senior Tyonna Snow scored 22 points for Missouri State, but missed the closing minutes of the game after suffering a shoulder hit to the head.
Harper said ''that's not how you want to end it under the circumstances,'' in regards to Snow's injury, but added that she's ''going to be okay, and that's the priority.''
Kenzie Williams scored 18 for the Lady Bears.
Missouri State: The Lady Bears say goodbye to seniors Hillary Chvatal, Tyonna Snow and Kenzie Williams, who finish their collegiate careers with over 3,800 points, 1,800 rebounds, 600 assists and 600 steals combined.
Texas A&M: With a made jumper on her first shot attempt of the game, Walker scored the 100th point of her career in the NCAA Tournament.
LAST LOSS THE HARDEST: ''Proud of our players, proud of our team,'' said Harper postgame. ''Last game is always really hard. I didn't have a big speech planned for our team had we lost, so you know, it's been a fun ride with this group. We hate to see it end.''
WALKER'S RECORDS PILING UP: One of the most accomplished players to come through Texas A&M, Walker needs seven more points to become the highest scoring women's player in school history. She also recorded her 784th career field goal on Saturday, good for the most in school history.
Missouri State: Season is over.
Texas A&M: Play No. 5 seed Florida State in the second round, March 21 in College Station.