Courtesy of NMSU
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The New Mexico State women’s basketball team concluded its 2014-15 campaign with a 75-57 loss at the hands of No. 4/3 Maryland on Saturday inside the XFINITY Center during the first round of the 2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The 16th-seeded Aggies (22-8) kept the game close throughout the first half and fought hard until the final buzzer, even while the top-seeded Terrapins (31-2) began to pull away in the second half.
NM State caps off a fantastic season that saw the team win its first conference title in 20 years and win its first-ever conference tournament crown to advance the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988.
“I’m proud of these kids, they started 0-5 and came back and won 22 of their last 24 games,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said. “They came here into a not very easy place to play, against a team that went 18-0 in the Big Ten and ranked third and fourth in the country and I think they competed. They did a really good job and I’m very proud of them. If we could have knocked down some more 3’s and some more of those open shots, it could have been closer.”
The Aggies, who were undersized versus a team that ran the table in its first year in the Big Ten and came in ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 3 in USA Today Poll, shot 37.9 percent from the field and were outrebounded 45-20, including 13-4 on the offensive boards. NM State, which has been helped by its 3-point shooting all season, shot a season-low 23.8 percent (5-21) from 3-point range.
Sophomore Brianna Freeman finished with a team-high 15 points for the Aggies. The Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year and WAC Tournament MVP went 6-of-11 from the field. Junior Sasha Weber added 14 points while sophomore Tamera William finished with 11.
Maryland 6-3 sophomore Brionna Jones was tough in the middle for the Terps, finishing with a double-double after posting a game-high 22 points while adding a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Aggies hung tough with the Terps early, as an Abby Scott bucket gave the 16-seed a 6-5 advantage three minutes into the contest.
Unfortunately for NM State, it would be the last lead it would see all day, as Maryland embarked on a 10-4 run that opened up 15-10 lead for the home team.
After a layup by Aggie Tyler Ellis, the Terps ran off another seven-straight points to mark their first double-digit lead of the day at 22-12 with 9:29 left in the first half.
Back-to-back buckets by Freeman and Moriah Mack brought the lead back to single-digits, but Maryland once again answered, this time by scoring eight of the next 10 points to take a 30-18 lead.
With three minutes left in the half, the Terp’s lead grew to its largest of the half of 14 points. But after NM State could not find the range from 3-point land all half, missing its first seven attempts, Weber finally broke the dry spell by sinking two in the final two minutes of the opening frame as the Aggies trailed 42-32 heading into the locker room.
NM State kept the Maryland lead at around 10 early in the second half as the teams traded buckets to kick off the final stanza. Freeman marked the first six points for the Aggies in the second half as NM State still trailed by 10, 38-48, with just over 16 minutes left.
The Terps, however, began to establish their ground and show why they are one of the top teams in the country and a legitimate threat to take the entire tournament. Maryland embarked on a 12-2 run that doubled its lead from 10 to 20 points with 12:03 left.
After a Shanice Davis bucket for the Aggies, the Terps scored another seven points in a row to take their biggest lead of the contest at 67-42.
As has been the case all year, NM State did not throw in the towel and battled to the end. Weber hit a 3-pointer with just under six minutes to go and Scott sank five-straight points for the Aggies late as NM State cut the lead down to under 20 to finish the game.