Henderson’s Late Free Throws Lift Aggies To Victory Over Northern Colorado

Written by: NMSU Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Down by two with 37 seconds to play, senior forward Sherell Neal tied the game with 22 second left and then junior guard/forward Brittany Henderson put the Aggies up for good with two free throws with 11 second remaining to give the New Mexico State women’s basketball team a 69-67 victory over Northern Colorado, Friday at the Pan American Center.

The Aggies win in the first day of the Thanksgiving Classic gives NMSU just its sixth 3-0 start in program history, as New Mexico State pulled out the victory with timely buckets and key defensive stops.

UNC’s junior guard Whitley Cox had a chance to tie the game with a 15-foot jumper from the elbow as time expired, but the Aggie defenders were right in her face forcing a bad shot to secure the victory. Cox did everything she could to win it for the Bears (2-2) as she finished with a game-high 23 points.

Head coach Darin Spence was obviously pleased with how his team found a way to pull out the victory.

“We did a good job at the end executing to get baskets and we were able to make some stops,” Spence said. “All night they stretched us out and were able to do some good things against us. Then Brittany Henderson made some big free throws for us at the end.”

Neal led the way for the Aggies with 16 points and eight rebounds while freshman Madison Spence added 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Henderson finished with eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

Northern Colorado out-rebounded NMSU 48-35, but the Aggies defense played pretty well minus a tough second half stretch where the Bears got back into the game after being down 12 early in the second half. NMSU caused UNC to miss its final 16 shots of the first half and forced 15 turnovers while only committing a season-low nine of their own.

Northern Colorado jumped out to an early 17-13 advantage behind 11 early points from Cox who was able to get into the lane for buckets against the Aggies zone defense.

Neal’s second 3-pointer of the game at 8:51 sparked a 7-0 run that gave the Aggies their first lead since inside the first four minutes. Senior forward Anikia Jawara put in four points in the post during that NMSU run, giving the Aggies a 24-21 lead with seven and a half minutes left in the half.

One free throw from senior center Danielle Hagen ended a nearly six minute scoreless drought from the Bears at 3:43 as the Aggies zone settled in and suffocated UNC offensively after Cox’s early explosion.

The Aggies scored six points from the free-throw line in the final five minutes. Then with 3.8 seconds remaining Spence drove to the top of the key after inbounding the ball and she dished to a wide open junior guard Tyshae Walton who knocked down the open 18-foot jumper as time expired to give the Aggies a 32-22 lead at the half.

Northern Colorado missed those final 16 shots of the half when NMSU outscored UNC 15-1 in the final nine minutes.

Neal and Spence led the Aggies with eight points apiece in the half where NMSU forced 10 turnovers and held UNC to just 23.3 percent shooting from the field.

Sophomore guard Chelsie Luhring got the Bears back into the game with a layup and a 3-pointer in the first three-plus minutes of the second half. Then with a three from freshman guard Courtney Stoermer, UNC cut the Aggies lead to three, 36-33, at 15:52.

Over the next seven minutes the lead changed hands four times and was tied twice. With 9:11 remaining, the Aggies swung the ball around the perimeter and Henderson hit a wide-open Spence on the far wing for a three to give NMSU a five point lead.

A Walton 3-pointer and free throws from Neal and junior center Danielle Stevens pushed the Aggies lead to seven. However, UNC answered right back with a 6-0 run to draw within one.

After a Neal bucket in the post, UNC’s Kate Kevorken tied the game at 65 with a three with just over a minute remaining.

New Mexico State came up scoreless on its ensuing possession and Cox gave the Bears a two-point lead after two free throws following a Walton foul with 37 seconds remaining.

After an Aggie timeout, Spence drove in the lane, paused and found Neal under the hoop as she laid it in to tie the game. Then after a Cox missed jumper, Henderson found herself at the free-throw line with 11 second remaining after pulling down the rebound.

Henderson made both of her free throws in the double bonus to put NMSU up by two.

Cox brought the ball up the court and was tripped up in the lane forcing a jump ball with the Bears retaining possession. Cox got the ball back on the inbounds but her forced shot never had a chance as the Aggies held on for the victory.

Jawara finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds. The Aggies bench came up huge in the win contributing 17 points.

In the first game of the Thanksgiving Classic, Texas State defeated Southeast Missouri State 80-47.

New Mexico State returns to the court tomorrow for the final day of the Thanksgiving Classic at the Pan American Center. Northern Colorado and Southeast Missouri State play at 4:00 p.m. and the Aggies and Texas State wrap the tournament up with their game that is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Fans can listen to the game live on the radio with Jenean Ford calling all the Aggies action on KSNM AM 570.