A late attempt to make a comeback fell short for the New Mexico State Aggies as the team slipped 67-58 to the Denver Pioneers on Saturday afternoon at Magness Arena. The Aggies drop to 9-10 on the season and 3-6 in Western Athletic Conference play.
Shooting 34.9 percent from the floor was not far from Denver’s 35.9 percent, but the Pioneers worked for 23 bench points to beat out the Aggies. Senior Stefanie Gilbreath led the team with 18 points and six rebounds, while fellow senior Kelsie Rozendaal worked for her fourth double-double and second consecutive with 11 rebounds and 13 points on the day.
“It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing, but really what it comes down to is making shots,” head coach Mark Trakh said. “That doesn’t mean we didn’t do some really good things today. Abby (Scott) played well for us and Stefanie and Kelsie both did some nice things on the floor. It just has to be more consistent for more of our players.”
Scott worked for nine points on the game with three defensive rebounds, contributing to the Aggies 43 total boards. The team had seven steals with two coming from sophomore transfer Danesia Williamson. Senior Camila Rosen was second for NM State defensively with seven rebounds.
The Pioneers struck first off a free shot and continued to an eight point lead before Gilbreath put the Aggies on the board with a layup in the paint. Williamson turned around for another Aggie layup and freshman Shay Young hit two from the line before Denver answered back with nine points to put them ahead 17-6 on the Aggies.
After a layup under the basket by Weber, the Pioneers hit a three at the arc to increase their lead. NM State found its groove as the team closed the gap to eight points with less than five minutes to play in the opening period.
Denver wasted little time increasing its lead to 32-20 with two more buckets, but NM State held the Pioneers scoreless in the final three minutes of play. Williamson sank the final points of the half for the Aggies with a layup from just under the rim and a free shot to close the period down nine (32-23) to the Pioneers.
Scott led the team with six points and Rozendaal worked for seven rebounds in the opening half of play. The Aggies shot 30 percent from the floor, while Denver managed 38.9 percent in the first half.
Denver took the lead in the second half as well, with four points before Gilbreath and Rozendaal brought the Aggies to life. After trading buckets, freshman Abby Scott hit a three from the top of the arc, giving the Aggies a push. Gilbreath sank a shot from the top of the key after hitting two free throws out of the second media timeout.
Rozendaal and Gilbreath helped the Aggies with a 10-2 run over the Pioneers in the middle of the half. Junior Jasmine Rutledge and senior Chrissy Fletcher kept the team moving forward as the Aggies tightened the gap to 62-55 with just over three minutes to play.
While the Aggies managed three more points on the day, Denver out-scored NM State with six free throws in the final seconds.
The Aggies now get back to the Pan American Center to host Texas State on Jan. 31 and UTSA on Feb. 2.