Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
MANHATTAN, KS - The New Mexico State women’s basketball team faced off with the AP poll ranked No. 6 Stanford Cardinal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum. A great all-around showing for the Aggies saw the team lead the Cardinal for three quarters before dropping the game in a nail-biter, 72-64.
With the Aggies last win versus a ranked team coming against No. 21 Kansas (61-60) on January 3, 2010, the team came in as underdogs against Stanford but played 40 minutes of determined basketball as they led the Cardinal for the majority of the game.
After securing the opening tip, NM State came out early and scored the first two baskets and immediately put the opponent on their heels. Being led by Brooke Salas with nine points and Moriah Mack with seven, the Aggies ended the opening quarter ahead 23-20.
The Aggies were smaller in each position on the floor but that did not stop the team from beating the taller Stanford players in the paint (8-6) and tying them in rebounds (9-9), as NM State built their lead in the first 10 minutes.
As the second quarter opened, Stanford came in and was able to tie the game at 24 which marked the first equal score since the opening seconds of the game. Tonishia Childress then hit a free throw to put the Aggies back up and Brianna Freeman followed that up with her first three-pointer of the season putting the team’s lead at 28-24.
The opponent continued to close in on the Aggies lead in the second, until Zaire Williams pulled up for a buzzer beating three to give NM State a 38-31 lead over Stanford after two quarters which capped off a 10-2 run for the team.
The third quarter opened with an 8-2 run for Stanford, but NM State never faltered as a three-pointer from Brooke Salas tied the game at 43 before head coach Mark Trakh called a timeout at the 4:27 mark. After the break, the Aggies came out with energy and re-built their lead behind baskets from Salas and Mack as the team entered the final quarter with the lead, 49-48.
After opening the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from Brooke Salas, NM State then saw their lead get cut into as the opponent went on a 10-2 run following the basket. With Stanford gaining their largest lead to date at 61-56, the Aggies called a timeout with 5:52 left to slow down the opposition. Unfortunately, the teams continued to trade baskets with Stanford as time was the Aggies biggest enemy and they fell 72-64 in the season finale.
Team play in the finale of a historic season for the Aggies saw Brooke Salas lead the team in scoring with 26 points which tied her career-high (vs. Seattle U, 1/26/17). Behind Salas was senior Moriah Mack with 15 points and a team-leading seven rebounds, while forward Brianna Freeman added 10 points of her own.
The NCAA Tournament loss puts NM State at 24-7 to close out the season. The seniors – Tyler Ellis, Brianna Freeman, Moriah Mack, Brandee Walton and Tamera William – left their mark on the program as they end their Aggies careers with three Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, including a 46-2 record in WAC play over three years.
Head Coach Mark Trakh
“I am so proud of our kids right now, our young women, and the effort that they put forth today
against a great team—a team that could go to the final four and coach (Tara) VanDerveer who
is a good friend of mine, who is obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time. I think we
were smaller by three or four inches at every position and they fought, they made big shots,
they scratched and clawed but the size began to warrant us at the end. But like I told the kids,
when you come from a small town like Las Cruces, I am sure there are a lot of people who were
watching, and I am sure that it was watched nationally because it was close, but there were a lot
of people in Las Cruces that were watching. I think what these kids did was they made their
school proud, their community proud and their city proud and they can go back to Las Cruces
with their heads held high. They came in and played Stanford toe to toe for forty minutes, and
we had our chances, but I couldn’t tell you how much I love these young women. The senior
class which has been simply amazing for the last three years, and the sophomore to the left of
me Brooke Salas, who had a big game today. Needless to say you never want to talk about
moral victories but I am extremely proud of these kids and I do not care. We might not have won
the game but sometimes you have to pat them on the back and say, ‘Hey, you faced some odds
there but you fought. You clawed and you scratched and you represented everything that you
have stood for very well,’ so I am a proud coach right now. I obviously love my team very much.”
#2 Brooke Salas
On the feeling of the game…
“I think that when we play our game we can compete with anyone. We do not ever go into a game thinking that we are going to lose or going for a moral victory. Every game we play, we plan on winning so this is definitely a missed opportunity.”
On the team’s low seeding…
“That is just motivation. Like I said before, we can compete with anyone if we play our game.”