The New Mexico State Aggies made a bold comeback in the second half of play, but fell 43-41 to UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday evening at the Thunder Dome in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The Aggies had a slow start in the first half, but a second chance shot by freshman Abby Scott tightened the score with less than five minutes to go. NM State was unable to close the gap before the half, leaving the hardwood with a 26-14 halftime score. Sophomore Danesia Williamson led the Aggies with six points in the opening half, while senior Kelsie Rozendaal collected three rebounds. Williams finished the road opener with nine points and one assist.
"We got really rattled in the first half and UCSB really prevented us from our running game," assistant coach Tamera Inoue said. "We did a much better job of finding the basket in the second half. Kelsie (Rozendaal) was solid again, but we expect at least four players to be in double figures."
In the second half, Rozendaal opened with a first minute layup, giving the Aggies some energy. Stefanie Gilbreath came up with two free shots for NM State followed by one from Rozendaal in the middle of the half. Back-to-back baskets by Gilbreath and freshman Shay Young halfway through the second period, gave the Aggies the momentum they needed to drive the score. A shot by Jasmine Rutledge out of a timeout closed the gap for the Aggies to 34-25 with less than 10 minutes to go.
That flow continued for NM State as the Aggies worked for 16 points and 16 rebounds in the second half alone. The team also compiled three assists and collected their only three-point shot of the game.
"I am proud of the improvement tonight. Now it's just time to get back in the gym and get some shots up," Inoue said.
Gilbreath notched 11 points on the night with four boards. Rozendaal worked to go 4-5 in the second half. She combined for five boards and one assist. She earned 10 total points in the game.
As a team, Aggie defense proved strong against the Gouchos as they collected three shot clock violations in their home opener. NM State also caused eight turnovers on the night.
NM State picks back up on the road on Tuesday, Nov. 20, for the Rio Grande Rivalry against the New Mexico Lobos. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at The Pit in Albuquerque.