NM State Women Win Semifinal OT Thriller

Courtesy of NMSU & The WAC

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The New Mexico State women’s basketball team needed overtime, but pulled out an action-packed 79-75 victory over Seattle U inside the Orleans Arena on Friday during the semifinal round of the WAC Tournament.

The Aggies (21-7, 13-1 WAC) survived a game that saw the No. 1 seed down by five at the half, start the second half on an 18-0 run, lead by three with under five seconds left in regulation before a Redhawk 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left tied the game and finally win in overtime after three Moriah Mack free throws in the final 16 seconds.

Courtesy of the WAC

With the win over fourth-seeded Seattle (10-21, 6-8 WAC), the regular-season champs will now try to add a WAC Tournament championship to their list.  NM State will play No. 3 Texas-Pan American, which upset second-seeded Bakersfield,  on Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. (MDT) in the championship game.  If the Aggies win, it will be their first-ever conference tournament title and automatically qualify them into the NCAA Tournament.  The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU and also streamed on ESPN3.

The Aggies needed a total team effort to thwart off the pesky Redhawks, and they got it after all five starters finished in double-figure scoring.  NM State was led by Sasha Weber outside and Brianna Freeman inside.  Weber finished with a game-high 22 points while sinking three shots from beyond the arc, tying her for second on the all-time 3-pointers made in a career list for the Aggies.

Weber has 183 made 3’s in her career, the same as former Aggie Danisha Corbett.  She is 100 3-pointers away from all-time program leader Mari Sanchez.

Freeman, meanwhile, marked her ninth double-double of the season after posting 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.  The WAC Player of the Year started the day by being named to the College Sports Madness Mid-Major All-American third team.

Point guard Shanice Davis added 13 points and came within one rebound of her first career double-double after finishing with nine boards.  Abby Scott also marked 13 points and hit a couple of timely 3-pointers in the game.  As for the hero of the overtime, Mack’s final three free throws left her with 10 points while also adding eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.

It was give and take early as neither team could open up a lead bigger than three points.  Despite going 1-of-6 from beyond the arc to start off the game, the Aggies still led 16-13 at the under-12 media timeout.

But Seattle proceeded to go on a 12-4 run that was capped off by two Crystal Allen 3-pointers to take a 25-20 lead 7:48 left in the first half.  The only two buckets by NM State during the run were by Scott.

The Redhawks continued hot from 3-point range, finishing 5-of-8 in the half.  With under four minutes left in the half Seattle had increased its lead to the biggest of the half, eight points at 32-24.  The Aggies would mark six of the final nine points of the half, however, to trail 35-30 heading into the locker room.

NM State has been a second-half team all season long and has come from behind on several occasions, but nothing would compare to what happened during the first four minutes of the second half on Friday.

Courtesy of the WAC

The Aggies would mark the first 18 points of the half over those first four minutes, an incredible run that saw the No. 1 seed go from five down to 13 ahead of the Redhawks.  Weber would score 10 of the 18 points, the first five, and the final five.  The first Seattle bucket in the second half came with 15:59 left on the clock.

Consecutive Freeman baskets would keep the lead at double digits with under 14 minutes left, but Seattle slowly and methodically began chipping at the lead.  A 9-2 run crept the Redhawks to within 53-48 with just under 11 minutes left in the contest.

NM State would again take the lead to double figures after consecutive 3-pointers by Scott and Weber and after a Freeman free throw the lead was at nine, 62-53, with 6:15 remaining.  Seattle, however, would mark the next seven points to close to within two at 62-60 with a little over four minutes left.

Neither team could find much of the basket over the next couple of minutes, but after a Davis running layup the Aggies held a 67-62 lead with 1:24 left.  Unfortunately, NM State would not score again in regulation while the Redhawks would score five points in the final minute, including Allen’s fourth 3-pointer of the day that tied the game with under three seconds left and send it into overtime.

The Aggies would not lead in the overtime until Scott’s final 3-pointer gave the top seed a 74-73 lead with 1:25 left in the extra time.  Freeman followed the three with her final bucket of the day to extend the lead to 76-73 with 37 seconds left.  Mack took it from there, sinking three-straight free throws before missing her inconsequential last one.

NM State swept Texas-Pan American this season, winning 74-71 on the road and 80-60 at home in front of over 2,000 fans to clinch the regular-season crown. Freeman averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds a game this season against the Broncs.  The Aggies also upset UTPA during last year’s WAC Tournament when fifth-seeded NM State defeated the No. 4 Broncs 86-74.

BOX SCORE

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