With the Aggies inbounding and the game tied at 59 with just two seconds remaining, everybody in the Icardo Center knew reigning, and preseason, Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year Brooke Salas was getting the ball. Instead, Adenike Aderinto received the inbounds pass on the left block, spun and banked it in at the horn to propel the New Mexico State women’s basketball team to a 61-59 road win over Western Athletic Conference foe CSU Bakersfield on Saturday afternoon.
CSU Bakersfield (6-11, 2-2 WAC) took an early 5-2 lead after a layup and a three pointer before Brooke Salas scored two-straight buckets for the Aggies (10-6, 2-1) to kick off a 10-0 run to give NM State a 12-5 lead at the 3:34 mark. After the ‘Runners closed within three at 12-9, New Mexico State closed the quarter on a 7-2 run for a 19-11 lead through one quarter. The Aggies forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter with Salas scoring nine of the teams 19 points.
After NM State extended its lead to 10 at 23-13 with 9:15 left in the second, CSU Bakersfield cut the lead to 23-20 at the seven minute mark. However, the Aggies got back-to-back buckets from Gia Pack and Dominique Mills and took a 28-22 lead into the media timeout. CSUB then pulled within four at 28-24 before NM State went on a 10-4 run to take a 38-28 lead into the halftime break. Salas scored 14 points in the half while Dominique Mills scored nine to go along with a career-high four steals. New Mexico State’s swarming press forced the ‘Runners into 17 first half turnovers.
The Aggies came out of the break on fire, extending their lead to 46-31 just two minutes into the quarter. However, Bakersfield got hot and ripped off a 16-5 run, including 8-0 in the final 1:45, to trim the NM State lead to just four at 51-47 at the end of the third. After, Bakersfield scored the first basket of the fourth, Pack drilled a three to end the run and give NM State a 54-49 lead.
After CSUB pulled within one at 55-54 with 6:07 to play, both defenses locked in with neither side scoring until CSU Bakersfield took a 57-55 lead on a three pointer with 2:37 to play. Then, Aderinto and Dominique Mills scored back-to-to back baskets to give NM State a 59-57 lead with 54.4 seconds to play. Although, the ‘Runners got a bucket with 25 seconds to tie it up and gave New Mexico State the last shot.
On the ensuing possession, Salas held the ball and drove to the bucket, but her floater in the lane hit off the front of the rim. Aderinto was there for the offensive rebound but was tied-up with the possession arrow in the Aggies favor to set up one final chance to win. After Bakersfield called a timeout to set its defense, Pack saw Aderinto matched up on a smaller defender and fed her on the left block where Aderinto spun and finished at the buzzer for the 61-59 NM State victory.
Salas led the Aggies with 16 points, with 14 of those coming in the first half. Dominique Mills recorded her second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds while adding a career-high six steals with Pack adding 10 points and nine boards.
NM State played outstanding defense on the afternoon, forcing 28 turnovers, including 24 steals, and holding the ‘Runners below their season average of 63.3 points per game. The Aggies also outrebounded CSUB 42-40, including 22 offensive rebounds.
The New Mexico State women’s basketball team continues WAC play at the Pan American Center when it hosts Seattle U on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. (MT) before Utah Valley visits the City of Crosses on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 12 p.m.