NMSU Women's Basketball Wins WAC Tournament Championship Over UTRGV In Double Overtime

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS VEGAS, NV - Playing in its second overtime game in as many days, the New Mexico State women's basketball team showed its toughness and captured its fourth Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship in the last five years with a 76-73 double-overtime win over UT Rio Grande Valley.

"These young ladies played a lot of minutes, a lot of tough minutes," said head coach Brooke Atkinson. "That just goes to show you what they're made of, resiliency, no quit, exactly what they showed you. They deserved this and I couldn't be prouder."

New Mexico State jumped out to an early 12-3 lead as Brooke Salas scored nine points in the first two minutes. However, the Vaqueros battled back and trimmed the lead to 17-15 at the 2:27 mark of the first. Then Salas knocked down two free throws and Pack a jumper to give the Aggies a 21-15 lead at the end of one. Salas scored 11 points in the quarter.

The second quarter started all UTRGV as it went on a 10-2 run to take a 25-23 lead with 6:45 left in the half. NM State regrouped, getting a three-point play from Pack to reclaim the lead at 28-25. From there, the two sides continued to score back-and-forth with UTRGV scoring the quarters final-four points to lead 36-35 at the half. Salas finished the half with 17 points to lead all scorers.

Salas and Pack then combined to score the Aggies first-nine points of the second half as they took the lead, 44-42, with 5:47 left in the third. Then, NM State went cold from the field as the Vaqueros scored nine of the quarter's final-11 points and the Aggies trailed 51-46 entering the fourth quarter.

New Mexico State chipped away at the Vaquero lead in the fourth, thanks to clutch play from Stabresa McDaniel. The graduate-transfer made two clutch free throws to bring the Aggies within one with 5:11 left in regulation before tying the game at 56 at the 4:25 mark. After UT Rio Grande Valley took a 58-56 with under three minutes to play, she scored in transition to tie it again, this time at 58 with 1:45 to play.

Both sides had multiple chances to take the lead before the end of regulation but neither side converted. Dominique Mills made a huge defensive play down the stretch, blocking a layup with 1:15 remaining to keep the game tied.

Both teams were fatigued heading into the extra period, with neither side scoring until UTRGV made one free throw with 3:11 in overtime. The Vaqueros added another bucket for a 61-58 lead before Dominique Mills made three-consecutive free throws to tie it at 61 with 1:26 in the period. UT Rio Grande Valley's Idil Turk made a driving layup with 53.2 seconds for a 63-61 lead. However, Salas hit a difficult lay-in with 24.2 seconds left to force a second overtime.

After UTRGV took a 66-65 lead with 4:02 in the second overtime, Gia Pack knocked down a three to give the Aggies a 68-66 lead. Then, like they had all game, the Vaqueros bounced back, scoring four-straight for a 70-68 lead with just under two minutes to play. Although, McDaniel hit a pair of free throws as did Pack, to tie the game again, this time at 72. Then, Pack missed a jumper but Salas was there for the put-back with 13.2 seconds left to give NM State a 74-72 lead.

However, UT Rio Grande Valley had a chance to tie it up at the free throw line but Nichele Hyman made the first free throw before missing the second and Salas was there to clean up the glass. Salas then hit two free throws to ice the game as UTRGV failed to get a shot off and the Aggies claimed the WAC Tournament championship 76-73.

This was New Mexico State's 17th-straight win, tied for longest in program history. It was also its 26th win of the season, also tying a program record.

Salas finished the game with her 20th double-double of the season with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Pack dropped 22 points as she broke the WAC Tournament record for points with 86 over her three games in Vegas. The previous record was over a four-game stretch. As a squad, NM State outrebounded the Vaqueros 49-47 while forcing 19 turnovers.

Pack was named WAC Tournament MVP after averaging 28.7 points during three games at WAC Tournament. Salas was named to the All-Tournament team after posting a double-double in the title game.

Join the New Mexico State women's basketball team as it learns where it will head for the NCAA Tournament for a selection show watch party at the Barbara Hubbard Room in the Pan Am on Monday, March 17 at 5 p.m. (MT).