Texas A&M 80, Gonzaga 76Dec 21, 2009 - 7:27 AM By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Texas A&M coach Gary Blair knew his team learned something from its lone loss of the season.
Tanisha Smith scored 20 points, and Tyra White added 18 to help No. 13 Texas A&M beat Gonzaga 80-76 on Sunday night in the Las Vegas Hoops Classic. The Aggies (9-1) built a 20-point lead before surviving a late rally by the Bulldogs (9-4) in the final 10 minutes.
It was nearly the second time in eight days that they coughed up a double-digit lead in the final 5 minutes. Texas A&M fell to TCU 56-54 after holding an 11-point advantage late.
"It was a teaching moment and it will help us down the road," Blair said. "We're going to be in a lot more of these battles once conference play begins."
Trailing 68-48 with 11 minutes left, Gonzaga went on a 28-10 run to close to 78-76 on Tiffanie Shives' 3-pointer with 30.4 seconds left. After White made one of two free throws with 25.4 seconds left, Courtney Vandersloot turned the ball over and Damitra Buchanan hit a free throw to seal the win.
"We made just enough free throws down the stretch to hold on," Blair said. "White was the MVP for us."
White had set her career high in Saturday's 72-62 win over Arizona State. She matched it again on Sunday.
Vandersloot scored 16 points, and Heather Bowman added 15 for the Zags.
Texas A&M built a huge first half lead behind 60 percent shooting from the field.
Leading by six midway through the first half, Texas A&M went on an 18-7 run to make it 38-21 with 4:21 left. White hit two 3-pointers during the spurt. The Zags were able to close to 14, but Smith hit back-to-back baskets to extend the margin back up to 51-32 at the break.
She finished the first half with 15 points and White had 12, going 4 for 4 from behind the arc.
It was the second straight game that the Bulldogs found themselves with a double-digit deficit at the half. They trailed by 17 against Baylor on Saturday night before falling 70-49.
"We can't keep spotting really good teams big leads," Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. "I was pleasantly surprised how we were able to battle back."
Gonzaga was able to cut into its deficit and was down 55-42 after a nifty backdoor layup by Katelan Redmon. But the Aggies then used an 11-4 burst to restore the 20-point margin.
The Zags wouldn't go away, mounting a furious rally behind Vandersloot and Bowman. Trailing 68-48 with 11:10 left, the Zags got going offensively.
"After last nights game, we were all disappointed in our performance," Vandersloot said. "We wanted to prove we could compete with teams of this caliber."
Vandersloot had an off-game against Baylor and she was determined not to have consecutive bad performances.
"It was disappointing to let my team down," she said. "I know I can compete with teams at this level. I pulled it out from inside myself.
The Aggies beat Arizona State on Saturday night 72-62.
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