March 22, 2009

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The ninth-ranked and second-seeded Texas A&M women’s basketball team stayed true to its seed with an 80-45 rout of 15th-seeded Evansville in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship held Sunday afternoon at the Joyce Center.

The Aggies (26-7) forced the Purple Aces (15-19) to an opponent season-high 30 turnovers which they converted into 43 of their total points for the game. Senior All-America candidate Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) scored a game-high 21 points to lead A&M past the opening round for the third-straight season. Gant had six points in a 14-0 run to send the Aggies to a 20-5 lead in the early going.

A&M went on a 15-2 run after the halftime break to put the game away. The Aggie defense held Evansville to 25 percent shooting from the floor (7-of-28) and senior All-America candidate Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) scored 13 of her 19 points in the second half of play. Starks eclipsed the 13-year-old all-time career scoring record held by former A&M All-American Lisa Branch (1992-96) after being fouled on a jumper with 3:07 to go. She knocked down the extra free throw to make it 1,942 for her career with more to come.

Junior Tanisha Smith (Kansas City, Mo.) hit a jumper with 14:05 remaining in regulation, 49-29, to extend A&M’s lead to more than 20 points for the first time in the ballgame. Smith, the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year, finished with a career-high 20 points in her first NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Purple Aces, making their second-ever tournament berth, were paced by Shannon Novosel with 14 points. Their 30 turnovers were one short of the season high they had against Notre Dame on the same floor on Nov. 19.

For the second year in a row, the Aggies will face the No. 10 seed in Minnesota (20-11) on Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. (CT) which will be televised live on ESPN2. The Golden Gophers upset seventh-seeded and host Notre Dame (22-9) in the second game of the twin bill, 79-71.