LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Playing in the third straight doubleheader between men and women’s basketball at the Pan American Center, the NM State womens basketball team (9-9, 4-2 WAC) played a thrilling nail biter, falling to Utah Tech (12-5, 4-2 WAC), 67-65 on Saturday afternoon.

Utah Tech won the opening tip, air balling a three on their first possession to give the ball right to the Aggies. Tayelin Grays broke the seal with a putback after a Molly Kaiser missed triple. Following the opening basket by the Crimson & White, the Trailblazers rallied to take a 7-4 lead with five minutes remaining in the opening stanza. Back-to-back paint points by Taylor Donaldson and Shania Harper gave the Aggies a one-point advantage (8-7), but the second-best scoring team in the WAC proved too much for NM State to hold off through one, leading 19-12 at the quarter break.

Playing a Utah Tech team employing a zone defensive scheme the Aggies uncharacteristically launched threes, attempting six in the first quarter, unable to convert any into points. A staunch NM State defense from beyond the arc kept the Trailblazers to a 2-11 shooting clip, well below their 33% shooting from three on the season.

The Utah Tech lead turned to nine within twenty seconds of the second quarter, but Tayelin Grays buried NM State’s first triple of the night and her fifth of the season to make it a six-point game (21-15) and start a 9-3 NM State run, turning it into a 24-21 game with 5:01 to go in the half. A pair of triples by the Trailblazers essentially canceled the Aggie run, but the Crimson & White defense turned it on at the end of the quarter, holding Utah Tech scoreless the rest of the way and forcing a trio of turnovers.

Aggies shot 25% in the first half, 1-13 from deep while Utah Tech shot 40% overall and 26% from three-point range. NM State forced eight Trailblazer turnovers.

Soufia Inoussa put herself in the Trailblazer passing lane and scored a transition layup to open the second half, making it a one-possession game before Utah Tech racked up a twelve-point lead (39-27), with 6:07 left in the third. Tayelin Grays and Molly Kaiser put NM State on their back, scoring 15 of the last 19 Aggie points in the quarter. With 3:56 remaining, Kaiser caught it on the left wing, driving towards the baseline and pulled up in the mid-range knocking it down and drawing a foul. Kaiser recorded her 500th career point and tenth point on the night with that basket.

Down 51-46 heading into the final frame, Soufia Inoussa collected her second made triple of the night to make it a two-point game (51-49). The next Aggie bucket come a few possessions later after a flurry of offensive rebounds by the Aggies. Taylin Grays was able to drive the lane on her defender and connect with a pretty hook shot from the paint setting a new career high, a mark which she recently broke a few weeks ago at Utah Valley when she scored 18.

With 6:11 left in the game, Sylena Peterson sunk a triple from the top of the key coming off an Inoussa assist to make it a one score game.Aggies defense took it to another level at the halfway point in the fourth quarter, diving for loose balls and contesting everything. The Aggies outscored the Trailblazers by three in the final frame

NM State went on a 5-0 run to tie the game with all five points coming from Kaiser. The guard connected on a layup and drew the foul before connecting from the charity stripe for a three-point play. On Utah Tech’s next possession, Kaiser recorded a steal before drawing a foul as she drove to the rim. At the line, Kaiser went 2-2 to tie the game at 65.

With six seconds remaining in the game, Utah Tech’s Breaunna Gillen knocked down a jump shot in the paint to put the Trailblazers ahead by two. Down to their last chance, Peterson got a great look from three for the Aggies, but the shot hit back iron and fell to the floor, allowing Utah Tech to escape with a road victory.

Notes
· Molly Kaiser reached 500 career points in the third quarter, ending the night with 15 points, while tallying career-highs in rebounds (8) and steals (5).
· Tayelin Grays finished with 22 points, a new career-high and her third double-digit output of the season becoming only the second Aggie to surpass 20 points in a game this season.
· Grays finished with nine rebounds, just one board shy of a double-double.
· Moe Shida recorded a season-high in points (5) while making her second triple of the season.
· The Aggies shot a season high 30 three-point attempts on the night but were only able to connect on five of them.
· This is the 13th game this season that has been decided by single digits for the Aggies. The Aggies are now 5-8 in games decided by single digits.
· NM State held a slight rebound advantage over Utah Tech (38-33).
· The Aggies were able to hang with the bision despite being outshot 50.1% to 30.3% throughout the game.
· The team had one of their better shooting performances from the charity stripe shooting an efficient 82.4% (14-17).