LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – The New Mexico State women’s basketball team tips off the season at home against UC Riverside on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. before it travels to take on Denver on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 3:30 p.m.
Fans unable to attend Thursday’s season-opener can catch all the action on the WAC Digital Network.
Aggie fans can also listen live to both of this weekend’s games on 91.5 FM KRUX and via TuneIn with Adam Young (@younpbp) on the call.
Live stats for Thursday’s game are available thanks to StatBroadcast while live stats for Saturday’s contest can be found here.
– Finished the season 26-7, matching a program record for wins.
– Won 17-straight games, also matching a program record.
– Won fifth-consecutive Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship.
– Won fourth WAC Tournament in the last five seasons.
– Made fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five seasons.
– Brooke Salas became the first player in WAC history to win Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
– Gia Pack was named First Team All-WAC and WAC Tournament MVP after breaking the tournament’s scoring record with 86 points over three games.
Bringing Home the Hardware
Along with winning its fifth-straight WAC Championship, NM State also dominated the WAC postseason awards. Brooke Salas earned Defensive Player of the Year honors while being named the WAC Player of the Year for the second-straight year. Gia Pack was named First-Team All-WAC for the second year in a row with Stabresa McDaniel earned a spot on the WAC All-Newcomer team.
2018-19 was the second season in a row that Salas won the WAC Player of the Year award while also being named First Team All-WAC. Salas led the league in scoring with 19.2 points per game as the Aggies won their fifth-straight WAC championship. It was the second-consecutive season that she finished first in the WAC in scoring. She also led the conference in rebounds at 11.3 per game.
During conference play, Salas averaged 19.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Her 329 rebounds on the year are also tied for seventh in the WAC single-season record book.
Placentia, Calif., native also earned WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was named to the WAC All-Defensive team, the second season in a row she received All-Defensive team accolades. She was second in the WAC in blocks (1.7) while also ranking second in steals (2.7). Salas also holds the NM State career record for blocks as she currently sits at 148.
Joining Salas on the All-WAC First Team for the second year in a row was guard Gia Pack. The guard from Phoenix averaged the fourth most points in the WAC with 15.8, including 16.3 in WAC play, while also averaging 7.0 rebounds per game, good for seventh in the league. She also ranked sixth in assists (3.5), seventh in three-point percentage (.352) and 10th in steals (1.8).
Grad transfer Stabresa McDaniel was named to the WAC All-Newcomer team in her lone season in Las Cruces. McDaniel averaged 9.2 points per game during league play while shooting the second-highest average in the league at .551, which improved to .567 in WAC games. She also recorded two 20-point games during the WAC slate as she dropped 21 against California Baptist on Jan. 3, and 20 versus Chicago State on March 2.
Sights on Six
During the 2018-19 season, NM State became just the second program in WAC history to win five-straight regular-season championships, joining former member Louisiana Tech. This season, the Aggies look to become the first program in league history to win six-straight titles. Since the 2014-15 season, New Mexico State is 66-6 in conference play with an incredible 35-1 record at home during that span. The last time the Aggies lost a conference game at home was against UT Rio Grande Valley on March 5, 2016.
NM State was picked to win its sixth-straight WAC championship by both the league’s coaches and media. The Aggies earned six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll, with two given to California Baptist and Kansas City picking up one.
Also, in the preseason poll, the league’s coaches gave Gia Pack the nod for Preseason Player of the Year.
The Aggies return WAC Tournament MVP and First-Team All-WAC honoree Gia Pack for the 2019-20 season. Pack was also picked by the league’s coaches as the Preseason WAC Player of the Year. Pack became the 24th 1,000-point scorer in program history after dropping 13 at Chicago State. She is currently 15th on NM State’s all-time scoring list with 1,259 points.
The Phoenix, Ariz., native has earned First-Team All-WAC honors twice, after her sophomore and junior seasons while being named to the WAC All-Tournament team following her sophomore campaign. At the 2019 WAC Tournament, the senior went off, scoring 86 points over three games to break the tournament’s scoring record. She dropped a career-high 36 points in a WAC Semifinal victory over Kansas City.
Scouting the Highlanders
UC Riverside comes into the season picked to finish third in the Big West. Last season in Riverside, the Highlanders made a late push to take down the Aggies 65-64.
The Highlanders return nine letterwinners, four starter and their top scorer from a season ago in senior Jannon Otto (15.2). Otto, along with teammate Marina Ewodo were named to the preseason All-Big West squad by the league’s coaches. Ewodo is the Highlanders’ defensive anchor as she was named to the Big West All-Defensive squad after last season.
As a team, UC Riverside averaged 61.9 points per game while giving up 62.4. The Highlanders also averaged 36.6 rebounds per game and posted a +0.6 turnover margin.
A Look at the Pioneers
Heading into the 2019-20 season, Denver was picked to finish third in the Summit League Preseason Poll. Last season in Las Cruces, the Aggies erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to capture a 66-64 win. Denver opened the season with an 83-79 loss at Kansas City.
Denver is an explosive offensive team that averaged 80.2 points per game a season ago and returns its leading scorer in Madison Nelson (16.5). Nelson also led the squad in rebounds (8.9), steals (55) and blocks (34). She was named to the preseason All-Summit League First Team along with teammate Lauren Loven.
The Pioneers are also prolific from the three-point arc as they shot the three at a .386 clip a season ago.
The Aggies prepare for two rivalry games as they welcome UTEP for the Battle of I-10 on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. and New Mexico for the Battle of I-25 on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m.