Historically, the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry is heavily lopsided in the Longhorns' favor. The times are definitely changing.
Takia Starks scored 21 of her 26 points in the second half to lead No. 11 Texas A&M to a surprisingly one-sided 68-54 win over the No. 16 Longhorns on Wednesday night, the Aggies' sixth win in the last seven meetings.
The Aggies have just 16 victories in the rivalry, which dates back to 1975, but now have won four in a row. This one came with a fast start, a heavy dose of defense and the hot-shooting Starks.
"She was just flat on fire," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "I'm going to love this win, love the win and feel very lucky."
The Aggies raced to a 19-3 lead in the first half before the Longhorns fought their way back to within six in the final minute. A layup, a steal and a fastbreak basket at the buzzer put A&M up 38-28 at halftime.
Starks took over in the second half, scoring seven of the Aggies' first nine points as A&M quickly pushed the lead to 20. The Longhorns never threatened again.
"She single-handedly took it to us," said second-year Texas coach Gail Goestenkors, who has yet to beat the Aggies. "That was tough for us and we were just trying to play catch-up the rest of the way."
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Starks had help. LaToya Micheaux grabbed 16 rebounds and Tanisha Smith scored 12 points for the Aggies (16-3, 4-2 Big 12), who shot 48 percent from the floor and outrebounded Texas 41-33.
"No one was putting a body on me, so I just decided to be a beast," Micheaux said.
Kathleen Nash scored 13 points to lead Texas (14-5, 2-3). The Longhorns forced 23 turnovers by the Aggies, but shot just 32 percent and went 17 of 32 from the free throw line. The Longhorns came in the game shooting 75 percent from the line.
Texas A&M made 7 of its first 10 shots while the Longhorns' guards were struggling to dribble and pass against the Aggies' aggressive defenders. Midway through the first half, Texas had nine turnovers and just four field goals.
The Longhorns scrapped their way back in the game when the Aggies started getting sloppy. Texas pulled within 34-28 before momentum quickly changed. The Aggies got a fast-break layup by Danielle Gant and another at the buzzer after Sydney Colson ripped a steal at midcourt and cruised in for the basket.
In the second half, Starks kept pumping in the points and the Longhorns couldn't do anything to stop her from driving to the basket or squirming into open space for jumpers. Even when the Longhorns had a hand in her face, she made shots.
Three more baskets by Sparks and a short jumper by Gant off a nifty pass over a Texas defender in the paint put A&M up 55-35 with 10 minutes to play.
"The second half has been my half the whole season," Starks said. "I come out aggressive and basically adapt to the defense."
Texas started the season 11-0, but the rugged Big 12 has been a tough dose of reality. The Longhorns have lost two in a row and face a tough road trip to No. 4 Baylor on Sunday.
"This league is not for sissies," Goestenkors said. "It's survival of the fittest. You've got to be mentally and physically tough."