And after trailing for practically the entire first 16 minutes of the final frame, it took an 11-2 NM State run over the final four minutes of the game to finally put the home squad over the hump as the Aggies won for the 17th time in 19 games. The Aggies finished the game scoring 20 of the final 28 points.
“It was really easy to lose this game, because you’re fighting for a conference championship at home, but the other team is playing out of their mind and giving you their best shot,” Aggie head coach Mark Trakh said. “It’s easy to lose this game, but our kids sucked it up and gutted it out. These are the games you got to win to win the conference championship.”
Brianna Freeman was clutch for NM State in the second half, at one points marking 11-straight points for the Aggies. The sophomore forward had game highs in both points and rebounds, finishing with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting and nine total rebounds, falling one board shy of her seventh double-double of the season.
Point guard Shanice Davis also hit critical shots during the second half, including a couple of important 3-pointers. The junior transfer finished right behind Freeman with 20 points and added three steals and a couple of assists.
Weber, who was recognized before the game for becoming the 20th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark, finished with 16 points and four rebounds. The 3-pointer that ended the first half was her 172nd of her career, tying with her assistant coach Cecilia Russell-Nava for fourth on the all-time career made 3’s list for NM State. She is now only two 3-pointers behind third place Sinnamonn Garrett.
Utah Valley quickly went up by four after marking the first four points of the game, but NM State answered with a couple of 3-pointers to tie the game up at 6-6. The Aggies sank three of their first five shots from beyond the arc.
Trailing 8-10, NM State ran off seven-straight points to take a 15-10 lead with 13:34 left in the half. It would be the Aggies’ biggest lead of the game, matched only by the final score.
The Wolverines would slowly come back and eventually take a 23-19 lead, but a Davis steal and layup followed by a Weber jumper would tie things up at 23-23 with 7:41 remaining in the opening frame.
NM State, however, would not score again in over five minutes of playing time as Utah Valley embarked on an 8-0 run that gave the visitors their biggest lead of the game at 31-23 with under three minutes to play in the opening frame. But Davis and Weber would once again lead an Aggie charge that culminated with Weber’s 3-pointer to tie the game at 36-36 at halftime.
The Aggies would regain the lead early in the second half at 40-38, but again NM State would go cold from the field, this time not scoring for over four minutes as the Wolverines scored nine-straight points to take 47-40 lead with under 15 minutes left in the contest.
The lead would still be at seven midway through the final half, but that’s when the Aggies would score nine straight, rather, Freeman would score nine-straight points to give NM State back the lead at 56-54. Freeman scored on three-consecutive 3-point plays, and she did it the hard way as the Aggie post player marked three-straight old-fashion 3-point plays.
Yet, Utah Valley would not go away quietly as it ran off six-straight points to take 60-56 lead with four and a half minutes remaining. But Freeman’s 10th and 11th straight points for NM State stopped the bleeding and began the 11-2 final run for the Aggies which was capped off by two Weber free throws to seal the win.
NM State now hosts Grand Canyon on Saturday inside the Pan American Center beginning at 2 p.m. A win on Saturday and the Aggies will be guaranteed at least a share of the WAC regular-season championship. The ‘Lopes also won on Thursday at Texas-Pan American, pretty much ending the Broncs hopes for a regular-season title. A Bakersfield loss at Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday coupled with a NM state win would give the Aggies the outright WAC regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the WAC Tournament.
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