Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The New Mexico State women’s basketball sits alone atop the Western Athletic Conference standings and is the only team still undefeated after taking down CSU Bakersfield, 56-48, on Saturday. After a tough first half, the Aggie defense held the Roadrunners to just 16 points in the final two quarters to walk away with an eight-point victory.
Following a slow start head coach Brooke Atkinson commented on how the team was able to turn things around saying, “It’s is all about continuing to trust the process. Whether it is going well or not, just stay the course. This team a month ago may have struggled, but now it is contagious where the returners preach what it takes to turn things around. The leadership from this group is great and they have really bought in on the defensive end, which has made a big difference.
NM State (9-8, 3-0 WAC) got off to a tough start with turnovers and three early fouls to give CSU Bakersfield (8-9, 2-1 WAC) a 9-3 lead at the 6:37 mark. Under two minutes later the Aggies trailed 13-5 and Atkinson called a timeout to settle the team.
A stoppage in play worked as the Aggies finished the quarter on an 8-2 run and only trailed by two, 15-13, through 10 minutes of play.
The second quarter started much like the first with the Roadrunners using a 14-5 run to put the Aggies deficit at 29-18 with 4:38 remaining in the half. Following a media timeout, the Aggies came out looking to gain an edge.
A jumper from Gia Pack began a 7-3 run to close out the quarter and bring the Aggies within seven, 32-25. After two quarters of play, Brooke Salas led NM State with eight points, followed by Tonishia Childress with six. The Aggies struggled in the paint as they were outscored 18-4 through 20 minutes.
NM State looked to change the momentum early in the second half to chip away at the Roadrunners lead. A quick 9-4 run had the Aggies trailing by just two, 36-34, at the first timeout just 5:38 into the third.
At the 2:15 mark, Monique Mills drew a charge and knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game up at 38. Then just 1:06 later Childress buried a three-pointer for the first lead change of the game, which put NM State ahead 41-38 to close out the third quarter.
A pair of baskets from Salas put NM State ahead 47-40 with 6:39 remaining in the game. A timeout on the floor then gave the Runners an opportunity to shift the momentum. Four fouls called on NM State in just 26 seconds allowed Bakersfield to continue to pressure and go on an 8-0 run to put the Aggies behind 48-47.
With 2:51 left in the game, Salas hit drained a three-pointer to put the Aggies back up 50-48. The Aggies then closed out the game with great defensive play and made a few crucial free throw shots to defeat Bakersfield, 56-48.
A pair of Aggies scored in double-digits led by Salas who put up 18 and Childress who added 11. Point guard Zaire Williams led the team and tied Alize’ Lofton of the Runners with a game-high 10 rebounds.
Despite struggling in the paint early, NM State responded and outscored CSU Bakersfield 12-8 in the second half. The Aggies also shot 50 percent from the field in the fourth quarter (5-for-10) and held Bakersfield to just 21.4 percent (3-for-14) to seal the victory.
New Mexico State now hits the road for a pair of crucial WAC contests as the team takes on Seattle U at 7 p.m. MT on Jan. 18 and then faces off against Utah Valley on Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. MT.