COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Kelsey Bone is a familiar name where Jessica Diamond, Chynna Turner and Michelle Price are from.
Three Wichita State players, all Texas-born, grew up playing against Bone in high school and in the summer circuit. Price has known her since they were 11.
After spending the week watching film on their old nemesis, the trio agreed nothing has changed.
“She’s still a bully in the paint,” Diamond said. “Still likes to go over that left shoulder. It’s the same game. But, I mean, she doesn’t have to change much if it’s effective.”
Price grew up an Aggie fan, but all three said there is an added motivation playing against the big-time school back home that recruited none of them.
“I was always more of a UT girl myself,” Turner said.
Bones hasn’t forgot about them, either.
“They have three kids on their team that are from Houston that I happen to know very well,” Bones said at Friday’s news conference. “They’re coming back home, they want to make a statement. So we are going to have make a statement as well.”
Numbers never lie — If Wichita State wins, it will be a trailblazer.
Not only do the Shockers have the fact a Missouri Valley team hasn’t won a NCAA Tournament game in a decade working against them, but now they also carry the curse of the No. 14 seed.
While parity frequents the men’s tournament, it’s almost non-existent in the women’s game. Since the women’s tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1994, No. 14 seeds are 0-76 against No. 3 seeds.
“Why can’t we be the first?” senior Jessica Diamond said when told the statistic.
Common denominator — The most promising piece of information for WSU is the common opponent, LSU.
The Shockers opened the season at Koch Arena with a 72-70 loss to the Tigers from the Southeastern Conference. While A&M won by 17 at LSU on Feb. 4, it lost by 15 in the regular-season finale at home.
“I believe (A&M) is comparable to LSU, as far as their size goes,” Diamond said. “I believe A&M’s guards are better defensively with their on-ball defense.”
WSU struggled to take care of the ball against LSU, committing a season-high 25 turnovers trying to navigate through LSU’s length. But the Shockers did find success when they did get up shots, shooting 48 percent and scoring 70 points in the loss.
The Shockers held LSU to 40-percent shooting and forced it into 18 turnovers, a trend they hope to continue against another SEC foe.
“Our defense is a little bit different than what they’re used to,” Alex Harden said. “We might be a little smaller, but we’re also a lot quicker and we use our hands more. We’ll see how that adds up.”
The Gary Blair Show — Texas A&M’s coach was the hit of Friday’s news conference, as his wit and humor were on full display.
Blair began by saying, “I started to bring up my 6-7 redshirt freshman to win the press conference by intimidation.”
When asked about his success at Texas A&M, Blair said it was as much about marketing as it was good coaching and recruiting. It wasn’t hard to see why Blair excels with people skills.
And before things got too serious, Blair had one more zinger before his time ended.
“Hopefully we will not have to play their coaching staff in a pickup game,” Blair said, referencing former Tennessee All-Americans Jody Adams and Bridgette Gordon.
What A&M is saying — Blair has hammered home the point and Texas A&M appears to not be taking Wichita State lightly.
“That’s the first thing we talked about as a team,” Blair said. “If you do not have your A-game, you better be ready because the other team is playing with nothing to lose.”
A&M players are well aware of who is coaching on the sideline for WSU and their history.
“They’re a direct reflection of their coaching staff,” Bone said.
Despite there being no precedent for it, A&M knows the 14th-seeded Shockers have the pedigree to engineer an upset.
“They’re really athletic,” A&M freshman Courtney Walker said. “They have a lot of speed and like to get up on people on defense. We have to be able to handle the pressure and execute our plays.”