3-22-08 -- Morenike Atunrase looked as if her season-long comeback was just about complete.
Texas A&M’s senior shooting guard was once again the Aggies’ offensive leader, scoring 19 points off the bench to lead Texas A&M to a 91-52 rout of Texas-San Antonio on Saturday in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament.
But the Aggies big victory was as much about experience as it was about good health, Atunrase said.
“The main thing is that two years ago we were just excited to be there,” Atunrase said. “This year we came out with a lot of experience. We’ve been there. We’ve been through the wars.”
The second-seeded Aggies (27-7) had an easy time with the overmatched Roadrunners (23-10), taking a lead to open the game and never relinquishing it.
No. 15 seed Texas-San Antonio, making its first appearance in the tournament, attempted only 15 shots in the first half. The Roadrunners committed 30 turnovers, allowing the Aggies to score 38 points off them.
“Going into the game, the one thing that we talked about as a team, we’ve got to handle the ball,” Texas-San Antonio coach Rae Rippetoe-Blair said.
Danielle Gant scored 18 points for the Aggies before going to the bench early in the second half. Takia Starks added 14 and Patrice Reado 12.
Monica Gibbs led Texas-San Antonio with 14 points and Jordan Stark scored 11, all in the second half.
“In the Southland Conference, it is not as rough as we probably played today,” Amanda Foster said. “We had a lot more calls called on us if we actually play in the Southland like that. Today was a big change.”
Atunrase, a senior, was A&M’s top player her first two years, but missed half of last season and the first six games of this year because of injuries. Atunrase was averaging 13.6 points going into Saturday’s game.
The 2004-05 Big 12 freshman of the year, broke her foot during the 2006-07 season. That was followed by a high ankle sprain. Then Atunrase suffered a stress fracture in her leg and in November an operation placed a rod from Atunrase’s knee to ankle.
Texas-San Antonio set a school record for victories to earn its first NCAA appearance. But the Roadrunners could not match up with the bigger, more athletic Aggies. A&M had 15 steals and six blocked shots.
The Aggies scored 36 points in the paint to Texas-San Antonio’s 13 and outrebounded the Roadrunners 42-27.