Written by: NMSU Athletic Dept.
RUSTON, LA - Senior forward Sherell Neal scored 22 points and had 12 rebounds for the New Mexico State women's basketball team who fell 57-50 at Louisiana Tech Saturday evening in the Thomas Assembly Center.
NMSU's five-game winning streak comes to an end with the loss and the Aggies are now 13-4 on the year and 3-1 in WAC play. La. Tech improves to 8-9 and 2-2 in conference play this season.
La. Tech was down by as many as 10 in the first half and by five in the second, but used an 11-0 run with under 10 minutes to play to pull ahead. The Aggies went cold on the offensive end of the court in the second half, only shooting 24.1 percent.
Head coach Darin Spence was very frustrated with his team's focus leading up to this game.
"We didn't prepare well in practice and I could just feel we weren't as focused this week," Spence said. "We didn't have the same sense of urgency tonight and we weren't able to make some easy shots."
Neal's double-double was her ninth of the season. She didn't receive much help however, as no other Aggie starter had more than four points. Sophomore guard Hannah Spanich was the team's next high scorer with nine points.
The Lady Techsters killed the Aggies on the boards Saturday, out-rebounding NMSU 49-37 and La. Tech had 16 offensive rebounds.
Forwards JoKeirra Sneed and Shanavia Dowdell combined to score 35 points for La. Tech. Sneed had 20 points and 11 rebounds while Dowdell had 15 and 14 boards.
New Mexico State did have a good night defensively, holding La. Tech to just 29.1 percent shooting from the field and they forced 20 turnovers.
Louisiana Tech was 24-of-31 from the free-throw line tonight compared to the Aggies 10-of-17 performance at the line.
The Aggies had a rough first seven minutes of the game, as they turned the ball over five times and made just three of their first 10 shots. Tech faired a little better, but not by much as they turned the ball over four times early in the game and made just four of their first 12 shots.
Neal tied the game up at eight with her 10-foot jumper in the lane, starting a streak of seven straight points from her that helped NMSU get its first lead, 13-12 at 10:09. The last point of Neal's streak sparked a 10-2 Aggie run that featured 3-pointers from freshman guard Madison Spence and junior center Niki Holt, giving New Mexico State a 23-14 lead at 7:27.
At 5:33 Neal found senior guard Irma Kmitaite-Smith on a back-door cut for the open layup, pushing the Aggies lead up to 10.
Louisiana Tech slowed the Aggies down towards halftime with their full court pressure defense and the Lady Techsters cut NMSU's lead down to six, 29-23 at the half.
New Mexico State shot 36.7 percent in the first half and finished with nine turnovers. Defensively, the Aggies were very strong in the first portion of the game, holding La. Tech to just 27.6 percent shooting from the field and they forced 10 turnovers.
La. Tech came out attacking at the start of the second half and they scored six unanswered points in the first 2:13 of the half to tie the game at 29.
Neal then hit a short jumper from the right baseline. After La. Tech knocked the ball out of bounds on their ensuing possession, the Aggies caught the Lady Techsters sleeping and got Spanich a 3-pointer where no one was with in 15 feet of her, putting NMSU back up by five.
Two minutes later the Lady Techsters had tied the game back up, but a three from Kmitaite-Smith and a bucket from Neal kept the Aggies lead at five, 41-36 with 13:48 to play.
After a Walton jumper on the fast break, Louisiana Tech scored five straight points at the free-throw line, four by Sneed, cutting back into the Aggies lead. Then layup's from Sneed and Keshia Warren capped off a 9-0 Lady Techster run that gave La. Tech a 45-43 lead, its first since 11:19 in the first half.
With under three and a half minutes to play, Spanich stole the ball and NMSU drove down and got Neal a layup, ending a six minute drought without a field goal. La Tech's Nastassja Levingston hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to put La. Tech up by five a 2:41.
Neal came right back with a layup and then at 1:05 she made 1-of-2 free-throw attempts to bring the Aggies back within two, 52-50.
Shanavia Dowdell got an offensive rebound for La. Tech after a missed shot with 37.7 seconds to play and was fouled by Neal on her put-back attempt. However, she made just one of her free throws to keep the Aggies within one possession.
Neal was then called for a traveling foul on the other end and Tiawana Pringle made both of her free throws after she was fouled to seal the win for Louisiana Tech.
New Mexico State stays on the road as the Aggies now travel to Utah State and Nevada next weekend. NMSU faces Utah State for the second time this season on Jan. 24 in Logan, Utah before heading over to Reno, Nev. to face the Wolf Pack on Jan. 26.