Courtesy of NMSU
CHICAGO – The New Mexico State women’s basketball team concluded its regular-season schedule by defeating Chicago State, 62-54, on Saturday afternoon inside the Jones Convocation Center.
The Aggies finish the regular season 20-7 overall and 13-1 in Western Athletic Conference play. They will head into the WAC Tournament next week winners of four in a row and 16 of their last 17 games.
NM State gets to 20 wins for the first time since the 2007-08 season when the team went 23-9. It is also the most wins and best record in conference play for the Aggies since joining the WAC.
The 13 WAC wins is the most conference wins since going 14-4 in the Big West in 1996. The 13-1 record is also the second-best record in conference play in program history, only outdone by the 10-0 High Country Athletic Conference finish in 1988.
“This could have been a very bad loss for us,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said, “but the girls did find a way to win it as they’ve done all season. We got to play better though or our stay at the WAC Tournament will be very temporary.”
Shanice Davis paced the way for NM State after posting 16 points, three assists and three steals. Sophomore Brianna Freeman came one rebound short of her ninth double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points and nine boards.
Juniors Abby Scott and Sasha Weber marked 12 and 10 points respectively. Scott went 4-of-10 from 3-point range, tying Colette Flack for eighth place on the Aggie all-time made 3-pointers in a career list. She now sits at 140 career 3-pointers.
The Aggies jumped out to an 8-2 lead after consecutive 3-pointers by Davis and Moriah Mack. With under 14 minutes left in the first half the lead was eight at 12-4 as NM State seemingly seemed in control.
But midway through the half the Cougars marked seven of nine points to get to within 17-13 at the under-8 media timeout. The Aggies, however, came out of the timeout and rattled off seven-straight points to take their biggest lead of the half and their first double-digit lead at 24-13.
Chicago State did not fold and ended the half outscoring NM State 11-6 as the visitors took a 30-24 lead into the locker room. Davis was already in double figures after finishing the first half with 10 points.
Consecutive shots from beyond the arc to kick off the second half, first by Scott and then by Weber, quickly opened up a 12-point lead for the Aggies. A short while later another Scott 3-pointer and Weber jump shot kept the lead at 12 with just over 16 minutes left in the contest.
Chicago State would stay in the game with timely shots, but every time it seemed the Cougars were making a run, it would be thwarted by a NM State bucket, many times by a 3-pointer.
Midway through the final half Davis hit a 3-pointer that again extended the lead to 11. Chicago State answered with a trifecta on its next possession, but Scott answered that with another 3-pointer.
Scott’s final 3-pointer of the game gave the Aggies their biggest lead of the game of 14, 60-46, with under three minutes left and seemingly put the game in hand for NM State.
But the Cougars had one final push in them as they marked eight-straight points to make it a two-possession game at 60-54 with 34.8 seconds left. Yet it would be too little too late for the home team as the Aggies sank a couple of free throws to ice their 20th win of their incredible season.
NM State now heads to the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas next week in hopes of corralling its first NCAA bid since 1988. As the conference champions, the Aggies receives a first-round bye and will not play until Friday, Mar. 13, during the semifinal round where they will meet the winner of the Utah Valley-Seattle quarterfinal matchup.