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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Everything was set up with the postseason in mind at North Little Rock's Verizon Arena, the site of this season's Southeastern Conference women's tournament.
The two headliners lived up to the billing in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
Empress Davenport' made a layup with 4.2 seconds remaining, and No. 3 Texas overcame an 11-point second-half deficit to beat No. 4 Texas A&M 67-65 on Sunday.
Both teams had their share of runs in the back-and-forth affair, but it was the Longhorns (10-0) who had the final push in a battle of rivals and NCAA tournament hopefuls. In the end, it was Davenport who put the finishing touch on what's become common place lately for the Longhorns — beating the Aggies.
"This was a ballgame that was good enough to be an NCAA Elite Eight game," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.
The win was the fourth straight for Texas over its rival, and the 10 straight wins to open the season are the best start for the school since opening 11-0 in 2008. It also improved Karen Aston to 2-0 against the Aggies as the Longhorns' head coach.
Nneka Enemkpali had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Texas. She combined with Davenport to help the Longhorns overcome a flurry of first-half turnovers to defeat their third Top 10 opponent this season — following wins at Stanford and against Tennessee.
They had to rally in dramatic fashion to earn Sunday's win.
"I just thought our team was really resilient," Aston said. "You always find out your character of your team, your personality, when you get into situations like we were today when we were down, which we haven't been a whole lot this year."
Texas trailed 45-34 early in the second half, but its full-court press disrupted Texas A&M after that — forcing 15 turnovers by the Aggies.
After Achiri Ade tied it at 65-65 with 31 seconds remaining, Davenport drove into the heart of the Aggies' defense for the eventual winning layup.
Jordan Jones, who led Texas A&M with 21 points, had one final opportunity after Davenport's shot, but her shot after driving the length of the court came up short at the final buzzer. Courtney Williams added 19 points for the Aggies, who won the national championship in 2011 and were a game away from reaching the Final Four last season.
"We got complacent and lax with the ball," Jones said. "We started to play not to lose instead of playing to win and sticking with all the things that helped us get the lead."
After trailing for much of the first half, Texas A&M surged ahead 32-31 at halftime and led by as many as 11 early in the second half — with Jada Terry putting the Aggies up 45-34 with a putback to cap a 9-0 run.
The Longhorns, who committed 20 turnovers, struggled to hold on to the ball during the first half, but they applied their own pressure in the second. Using a harassing full-court press, Texas finally regained the lead at 62-61 after Davenport's free throw with 4:14 remaining.
"I think we had to push the tempo since we were down by a lot," Davenport said. "We've never been down by that much during the season, I don't think, and we were just trying to press ... Anything to speed them up."
It then pushed the lead to 65-51 with 3:01 remaining, but Texas A&M tied the game at 65-65 after baskets by Williams and Ade.
Davenport had the final answer on the other end, though Blair made it clear he hopes this isn't the last time the two championship contenders face each other this season.
"I hope to see them again, because both of these teams you'll see in the NCAA tournament if we keep playing this well," Blair said.
Jones, who leads the SEC with an average of 6.9 assists per game, had one of her worst outings the last time Texas A&M faced Texas — a 69-58 defeat last season. The junior had just three points on 0-of-8 shooting in that game, but she rebounded with her 21-point effort on Sunday, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Sunday's game was a homecoming of sorts for both Blair and Aston. Blair coached the Razorbacks for 10 seasons from 1993-2003 and still has family in northwest Arkansas, while Aston is from Bryant, Arkansas and played collegiately at Arkansas-Little Rock.
Texas is off for nine days before hosting Rice in its final nonconference game before Big 12 play on Dec. 30.
The Aggies actually return to Arkansas on Jan. 4 for an SEC game against the Razorbacks, but they next travel to Washington on Dec. 29.
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