Aggies return to the NCAA Tournament

Sports

The New Mexico State women’s basketball team heads to Ames, Iowa as a 14 seed to take on third-seeded Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 23, at 3:30 p.m. (MT).

 

Get Connected

Stay up to date with the latest NM State women’s basketball news by following us onTwitter,Facebook and Instagram.

 

Where to Watch

Saturday’s first round matchup between the Aggies and the Cyclones is set to broadcast live on ESPN2 with Brenda VanLengen (@BrendaVanLengen) and Andraya Carter on the call. Games are also available to stream through the ESPN app.

 

Listen Up!

Fans can tune into 91.5 FM KRUX to listen to all the action with Russ Eisenstein on the call. An audio stream is also available throughTuneIn.

 

Follow Along

NM State fans can follow along with the Aggies’ trip to the NCAA Tournament thanks toStatBroadcast.

 

We’re Back

After a one-year hiatus, the NM State women’s basketball team is back in the NCAA Tournament. This is the Aggies’ fourth trip to the Big Dance in the last five seasons.

 

New Mexico State is 0-5 in NCAA Tournament games, making trips in 1986-87, 1987-88, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Aggies have never matched up against a Big 12 school in the tournament and have played against the Pac 12 four times (Washington in 1986-87 and 87-88, Arizona State in 2015-16 and Stanford in 2016-17. And the Big 10 once (Maryland 2014-15). 

 

On Fire

During the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas from March 13-16, Gia Pack hit another gear. The junior from Phoenix dropped 28 against Chicago State, a career-high 36 against Kansas City and 22 in the championship against UT Rio Grande Valley.

 

Pack’s 86 points on the weekend set a WAC tournament record while earning Pack WAC tournament MVP honors. The previous record was set over a four-game span while Pack needed just three. Her 36 points are tied for the sixth-most in program history. She also tied a WAC tournament record for steals in a game with seven in the quarterfinals versus Chicago State.

 

Scouting the Cyclones

Iowa State enters the NCAA Tournament ranked 13th in the nation and as the three seed in the Chicago region with a 25-8 overall record and a 13-5 mark in Big 12 play. The Cyclones fell to #1 Baylor in the Big 12 Championship game, 67-49.

 

ISU boasts the second-highest scoring offense in the Big 12 as they score 78.9 points per game. The Cyclone’s offense is led by senior Bridget Carleton who averages 21.4 points per game, tops in the Big 12. Joining Carleton as double-figure scorers are Kristin Scott (13.0 ppg) and Ashley Joens (11.7 ppg).

 

The Cyclones are prolific from beyond the arc as well as from the free throw line as they rank in the top-15 nationally in three pointers made and free throw percentage. ISU makes free throws at a .788 clip which is ranked fourth in the nation while its 292 threes made is 12th.

 

The Cyclones can also defend, giving up just 63.9 points per game which is good for second in the Big 12. With nine players on its roster six feet or taller, Iowa State doe a great job protecting rim as they average 4 blocks per game, tops in the conference.

 

WAC It Up

The Aggies started the WAC championship against UT Rio Grande Valley fast, opening up a 12-3 lead with Brooke Salas scoring nine points in the first two minutes of action. After the Vaqueros pulled within two at 17-15, NM State closed the first quarter with four-straight points to lead 21-15 after the first.

 

Then, the Vaqueros responded with a 10-2 run to open the second quarter for a 25-23 lead. The two teams went back-and-forth to close the quarter with UTRGV holding a 36-35 lead at the half.

 

After Salas and Gia Pack scored nine to open the third and give NM State a 44-42 lead, the Aggies went cold. UT Rio Grande Valley then went on a 9-2 run to close out the quarter for a 51-46 lead entering the fourth.

 

NM State chipped away at the Vaqueros lead behind clutch play from Stabresa McDaniel as she scored the final-six points in regulation to tie the game at 58 with 1:45 to play and send it to overtime. Both sides had multiple opportunities to take the lead with Dominique Mills coming up with a clutch block to keep the game tied.

 

The Vaqueros took a 61-58 lead in the overtime period but Dominique Mills made three free throws to tie the game at 61. However, UTRGV scored again but Salas hit a clutch layup with 24.2 seconds to remaining to force a second overtime.

 

After trading baskets, the Aggies had the opportunity to go ahead with the score tied at 72 with 40 seconds left and the ball. Pack missed a free throw line jumper but Salas was there get the offensive rebounds and the put back for a 74-72 lead with 13.2 seconds left. After a foul on the other end, UTRGV’s Nichele Hyman had the chance to tie it but went 1-2 from the line and Salas was there for the rebound. Salas then knocked down two free throws for the final tally of 76-73.

 

This was NM State’s fourth WAC tournament title in the last five years. The win also gave the Aggies their 17th-straight win and 26th win of the season, both matching program records.

 

Pack was named WAC tournament MVP after breaking the WAC Tournament scoring record with 86 points over three games in Las Vegas. Salas was also named to the All-tournament team after posting her 20th double-double of the season in the championship game with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

 

Up Next

Should the Aggies make it past the Cyclones, they would take on the winner of the DePaul-Missouri State matchup in the round of 32 on Sunday, March 24. That game is also set to be broadcast on ESPN 2.

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