LAS CRUCES, NM – Seven Aggies come off the bench to score a combined 52 points and lead NM State to a 72-59 home victory over Sam Houston on Thursday evening.
NM State’s top two scorers on the night both emerged from the bench as Molly Kaiser led the way with 13 points and Taylor Donaldson finished with 12 tallies. Donaldson was also dominant off the glass as she finished just two boards shy of a double-double to lead the Aggies in that category.
Moe Shida was a big part of the Aggie win as she turned in eight points and four assists. Shania Harper and Jade Bradley also provided a great boost off the bench in the second half as they each scored seven points in just 13 minutes of play.
As a unit, the Aggies shot 53 percent from the field and finished plus-42 in bench points and plus-18 in paint points. On the defensive end, NM State held the Bearkats to 39 percent shooting from the field and allowed just one made three-pointer on seven attempts.
· Upon appearing in the starting lineup for the first time this season, Deja Terrell made an immediate impact as she got the Aggies on the scoreboard first by way of a driving layup on the Aggies’ opening possession.
· The Aggies’ floor general, Mel Isbell, went down with a minor injury early in the opening quarter that forced Moe Shida into instant action off the bench. Isbell would later return and would make an impact in the closing minutes of the game.
· Shida, a junior guard from Asahikawa, Japan, stepped right in and scored the next two for the Aggies to put the home squad ahead 4-2 at the eight-minute mark in the first.
· Later in the quarter, Fama Thiam stole a Bearkat pass to start an Aggie fast break. Taylor Donaldson turned the Thiam steal into points and gave Shida the first of her two first-quarter assists.
· At the 3:36 point, Kayla Watkins drained the Aggies’ first three-pointer of the game and kick-started a 10-4 scoring run to close the quarter.
· During the run, another Shida layup helped the Aggies pull ahead 18-14 with 1:55 remaining in the period.
· Shida then capped off the quarter as she found Donaldson once again during the closing seconds of the quarter, giving the Aggies a 22-14 advantage with one quarter in the books.
· To open the second quarter, Taylor Donaldson scored a second-chance layup and then swatted a Kaylee Jefferson layup that turned into a fast break layup for Molly Kaiser on the other end.
· Following the strong start, the second quarter was mostly back-and-forth as the Aggie lead never dropped below eight points, but also did not increase past 12.
· Brooke Atkinson’s bench also continued to produce as it scored eight of the Aggies 16 in the second quarter.
· In the second, Donaldson and Terrell led the way with four points each. Terrell’s points came late in the quarter as part of a 6-1 run that helped the Aggies head into the locker room with an 11-point lead.
· Sam Houston came out firing on all cylinders to start the second half, rattling off a 9-2 scoring run in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
· Kaiser then put an end to the Sam Houston run and scored the next four Aggie points to help NM State retain a six-point lead with 5:31 on the clock in the third.
· However, the Bearkats scored the next five points and cut the deficit to just one point as it appeared the Aggies might let another lead slip away and end up in a battle to the final horn.
· Kaiser and Shida had a different idea as the pair combined to give the Aggies a 5-0 scoring run and push the Aggie lead to six once again as the Aggies went out front 49-43 at the 2:42 mark in the quarter.
· Following a Sam Houston answer in the form of two Faith Cook free throws, the Aggie offense put together a stretch in which it outscored the Bearkats 8-3 to finish the quarter.
· Jade Bradley, who saw zero minutes of playing time in the first half, came up big as she paced the Aggies with five points during the run and gave NM State a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
· Shania Harper, who also did not see any action in the first half, gave Atkinson solid second-half minutes, including scoring four of the Aggies’ first seven points in the final quarter.
· Kaiser chipped in with Harper to start the period and help give the Aggies their largest lead of the evening, going ahead by 15 points with 7:34 to play.
· Although, the Bearkats did not throw in the towel as they made one final lunge at the Aggies and managed a 10-2 run to cut the Aggies lead to seven with just under three minutes to play.
· After a pair of Donaldson free throws, Mel Isbell found an open lane and knocked down a floater to put the finishing touches on an end-to-end win in the Pan American Center.
The Aggies’ next opponent will be Chicago State as they meet in Chicago for a matchup on Jan. 25. Tip-off is set for noon MT as the two programs prepare to play for the first time this season after their matchup on New Year’s Day was postponed to this upcoming Tuesday due to COVID-19 protocols.