Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
LAS VEGAS, NV - The New Mexico State women’s basketball team played their first game in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in the semi-finals against the UMKC Roos on Friday afternoon in Las Vegas.
With a 71-63 win, NM State advanced to their third-straight WAC Championship for the first time in program history. The victory was also the 16th straight for the team, setting a new record for consecutive wins, topping the previous mark of 15 set by Joe McKeown and the Aggies back in 1987-88.
After a hard-fought victory, head coach Mark Trakh commented, “UMKC played us very tough and forced bad turnovers throughout the game. Credit this group for the win as they shot the ball well and got the victory with a total team effort.”
The contest opened up in the Roos favor as the opponent got a 4-0 lead early. However, the Aggies were able to get their legs under them soon after and explode for an 11-2 run to counter the opposition. The run gave NM State a lead they would carry to the end of the quarter ahead 19-14 as WAC Player of the Year Moriah Mack scored the final nine points for the team.
In the second quarter UMKC hounded the Aggies offense forcing two backcourt turnovers in rapid succession. The Aggies were able to respond to the pressure with efficient shooting as the team shot 59 percent from the field and went 3-5 from three-point range as they led 25-18 at the 7:31 mark of the second quarter.
The shooting slowed down for both teams as they only knocked down one basket combined over the next 3:08. Then after a timeout on the floor, NM State came out on a 7-2 run to grow their lead and close the half in the lead, 32-25. Scoring for the Aggies after 20 minutes was led by Moriah Mack with 13 points, followed by Brooke Salas with seven. Despite being out-rebounded (21-17), the team still battled down low putting up more points in the paint (18-12).
As the second half opened, the Roos continued to pressure the Aggies, causing a 2:25 scoring drought for the team as the teams lead was cut down to 34-29 in the opening minutes. Zaire Williams then ended the drought and gave shifted the momentum in the Aggies favor with a basket and-one. The three-point play from Williams started a 12-2 run for the team as they expanded on their lead. After a buzzer beater from Mack, the Aggies entered the final quarter up 53-39.
A 10-4 run to open the fourth quarter cut into the Aggies lead as the opponent looked to continue pressuring the Aggies. After multiple turnovers, NM State had to call their final timeout of the game as they led 61-53 with 3:25 left. The call slowed down the opposition and allowed the Aggies to carry their eight-point lead into the final minute of play, finishing the game at the free throw line as they walked away with a 71-63 win.
Scoring for the team saw four Aggies finish in double-digits, led by Moriah Mack with 21, followed by Tamera William with 18, Brooke Salas with 14 and Brianna Freeman with 10. Salas led the team on the boards with nine rebounds, while Mack led the defensive front with three blocks and two steals.
Although the team lost the battle on the boards (43-29 rebounds), the strong shooting night allowed them to secure the win. The Aggies shots 52.1 percent from the field, including going 7-11 (63.6 percent) from three-point range.
The victory moves the Aggies to 23-6 overall and advances the team to the WAC Championship tomorrow at 4 p.m. MT as they will face off against the Seattle U Redhawks.