The New Mexico State women’s basketball team opened its questfor a fifth-straight Western Athletic Conference championship with its 15th-straight conference home win, a 76-69 decision over conference-newcomer California Baptist at the Pan American Center Thursday night.
The two sides started the game going back-and-forth with the Aggies (9-5, 1-0 WAC) holding a 9-8 advantage at the first media timeout. After California Baptist (6-7, 0-1) again pulled within one at 11-10 with 3:56 in the first, NM State finished the final 2:17 of the first with a 15-5 run. That run saw Stabresa McDaniel make two buckets while Gia Pack drilled a three at the buzzer off an Aaliyah Prince steal, giving New Mexico State a 26-15 lead at the end of one.
Then, the second quarter began with NM State scoring just six points in the first six minutes as the Lancers closed to within 32-28 with 4:23 remaining until the half. However, Prince, Adenike Aderinto and Dominique Mills combined to score the next six points and the Aggies took a 38-28 lead into the half. Salas finished the half with 11 points and seven rebounds while Dominique Mills and Gia Pack scored six each. New Mexico State shot 40 percent from the field in the half while holding CBU to just 29.7 percent.
NM State and California Baptist traded buckets for the majority of the third, with the Lancers cutting their deficit to 49-41 with 2:39 play in the period. However, the Aggies went on an 8-4 run, including four free throws from Kalei Atkinson to lead 57-45 to start the fourth quarter.
After CBU went on a 9-0 run to start the fourth and trim the Aggies’ lead to three at 57-54, McDaniel and Salas started to get hot to close out the game. The duo scored all 19 fourth-quarter points for the Aggies with McDaniel scoring 10 of her career-high 21 points in the quarter. Despite California Baptist making four three pointers in the quarter, NM State held on to earn a 76-69 win to open WAC Play.
McDaniel scored a career-high 21 points on 9-13 shooting from the field and 2-2 from beyond the arc. Salas continued her monster senior season with her eighth double-double (20 points, 17 rebounds), her fourth-straight 20-point game, and third game with 15 or more rebounds on the year. She also moved into sixth-place on NM State’s all-time scoring list as well as into 10th place on the career rebounding list.
As a squad, New Mexico State shot 38 percent from the field to go along with 35.7 percent shooting from three. The Aggies outrebounded the Lancers 53-37, the first time NM State recorded 50 or more rebounds since pulling down 52 on Nov. 11, 2017, at New Mexico.
New Mexico State women’s basketball is back in action when it takes its first road trip of conference play to take on Grand Canyon on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m. (MT) before visiting CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. Thursday’s matchup with the Lopes is set to be streamed live on the WAC Digital Network.