The New Mexico State women's basketball team fought another major conference team down to the final minutes on the road but fell 71-59 to Arizona at the McKale Center on Sunday afternoon.
After trailing by as many as 11 after the half, NM State closed to within four at 58-54 with just four minutes left in the contest following a free throw make by senior guard Jasmine Lowe and a bucket by classmate Danisha Corbett. However, Arizona responded with a late 7-0 run to push the lead back to double-digits late down the stretch to put the game out of reach for NM State.
Lowe and Corbett led the Aggies in the scorebook with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Junior guard Kaitlyn Soto added 11. Freshman Jasmine Rutledge led the Aggies with six boards.
Senior point guard Madison Spence dressed for the Aggies for the first time since Nov. 22 when she suffered a concussion against Western New Mexico. Spence celebrated by starting her 100th career game at NM State against the Wildcats in Tucson. She finished with seven points in 27 minutes of action.
"This was another great test for us; a great challenge," said head coach Darin Spence. "I'm pleased again with how we competed. We cut it to four late but we played a good team tonight that found a way to score. I like way we came together and got Maddy (Spence) back in.
"It was good to see (Madison) back. She was not back to what she was doing before (the concussion). We subbed her a lot tonight but she played 27 minutes and she'll get going again."
NM State shot 34.4 percent from the field while Arizona made 42.1 percent of its shots. UofA dominated the boards with a 49-31 advantage. NM State's defense forced 20 Wildcat turnovers while the Aggie offense made just 16 miscues.
NM State falls to 6-5 on the year while Arizona improves to 7-2 this season.
Lowe opened the scoring in the game with a triple from the top of the circle to give NM State a 3-0 lead early. Arizona scored four straight to take a brief lead at 4-3 just over two-and-a-half minutes in. Aggie leading scorer Tabytha Wampler played just four minutes of the half after being whistled for two quick fouls.
The teams traded the lead on offensive possessions over the next 3:25 of the clock. NM State built its largest lead of the half after a bucket by Lowe for a 12-9 advantage. A basket by Corbett put the Aggies up 14-11 at the 12:16 mark of the half.
Arizona took a 17-14 lead after a 6-0 run over the next four minutes of the game. The Wildcats did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the half. NM State closed to within one at the eight-minute mark after a bucket by Lowe. However, UofA responded with an 11-3 run over the next five-plus minutes to build its biggest lead of the half at 28-19 with 2:37 remaining before halftime.
Both squads played even over the final two minutes of the stanza as Soto scored two from the foul line and another pair on a fast-break layup. Sophomore forward Malia Magazzeni added a bucket in the post late for the Aggies in addition to Soto's tallies.
NM State shot 31.3 percent in the half while Arizona shot 36.7 percent. The Wildcats out-rebounded NM State 25-16 in the first 20 minutes. UofA was perfect from the foul line at 8-of-8 while the Aggies were 3-of-4 in the half. Both teams shot poorly from beyond the arc as the Aggies made 2-of-8 and the Wildcats sank 2-of-10.
The Aggies opened the second half with a 10-3 rally to cut the Arizona lead to two, 37-35, at the 17:40 mark. Corbett sparked the run after consecutive treys on the offensive end. Wampler added four quick points in the half but picked her fourth foul just over three minutes after the break to send her back to the bench.
UofA capitalized on Wampler's absence in the paint with a 13-3 rally to push the lead back to nine at 47-38 with over 12 minutes remaining. Wampler soon re-entered at the under-12 minute media timeout. Coach Spence subbed Wampler in on offense and took her out on defense. The teams played even over the next four minutes as UofA led 54-44 with 7:24 remaining.
After the Aggies closed to within four points at the four-minute mark, Arizona closed out the game on a 13-5 run to yield the final score.
Wildcat Soana Lucet led four players in double digits with 15 points. Arizona guard Davellyn Whyte posted 14. UofA leading scorer Ify Ibekwe was held in check by the Aggies, scoring half of her average with eight points but cleaned up the boards with a game-high 14 caroms.
NM State returns to the friendly confines of the Pan American Center on Wednesday, Dec. 22 against Utah for its final home game of 2010. Tipoff is slated for 7:05 p.m. MT.