By Derek Gonzales
The New Mexico State women’s basketball team inched one step closer to an undefeated record in conference play and tied the program record for consecutive wins in the process, beating the University of Missouri—Kansas City Kangaroos, 78-74, in overtime Saturday afternoon at the Pan American Center for their 15th straight win.
The Aggies struggled to shoot the ball in the first quarter, and UMKC capitalized, taking a 15-8 lead. The Aggies then went with a small-ball lineup, in hopes of spacing out the floor and creating driving lanes, but a 25-percent first quarter from the field dug the Aggies a 20-10 hole. UMKC forward Taylor Leathers, who is third on the team in scoring at eight points a game, had seven at the end of the first quarter.
The Aggies ramped up the full-court pressure at the start of the second quarter, playing UMKC ball handlers more aggressively, and went back to man-to-man in the half court, and forced the ‘Roos to call a timeout after causing four turnovers in less than three minutes of action. When UMKC wasn’t turning the ball over, they were knocking down shots, shooting 64 percent from the floor in the first half.
Leathers led the ‘Roos with 14, followed by Kristen Moore with six as they went to the locker room with the 37-30 lead. Last season’s WAC Player of the Year, Brianna Freeman, only saw six minutes of action in the first half due to foul trouble. NM State only made one three-pointer in their seven attempts, but kept their turnover number low, with four, while UMKC had nine.
The second half began with much of the same, with UMKC hitting timely shots and keeping the Aggies at bay, but their shooting percentage did dip down, shooting 41.7 percent in the third. Foul trouble worsened for the Aggies also, as Freeman, Salas, Weber, and Zaire Williams all had three fouls for most of the period as the ‘Roos took a 55-50 lead into the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, the Aggies had yet to have a lead in the game, but got within a possession numerous times, and were not able to get over the hump until late in the fourth. Aggie leading scorer Sasha Weber fouled out midway through the fourth, only scoring five points on the day. Moriah Mack went into the game, and along side Salas, Freeman, William, and Davis, the Aggies finally took their first lead with a couple of Tamera William free throws with a little bit over two minutes left.
After UMKC’s Samantha Waldron split a pair of free throws, Mack attacked the basket and finished the layup while being fouled. After she made the free throw, she then fouled Waldron in the backcourt, and after she made both, the Aggies still led 66-65.
The Aggies came back on the offensive end, got a layup from Shanice Davis, and after another Aggie foul, UMKC’s Kiana Law missed one of the two free throws, with the miss causing a foul, sending Brianna Freeman to the line where she missed both. UMKC’s Aries Washington drove the ball inside, scoring a floater over Freeman, tying the score at 68.
Brooke Salas missed inside on the ensuing possession for the Aggies, but Freeman caused a tie up, and with the possession arrow pointing the Aggies’ way, it set up NM State with a final chance to win. The possession started with 32.4 seconds left on the clock, and after the timeout by Coach Mark Trakh, the Aggies attacked immediately, missed, but William got the rebound and got it back out to Mack, and she was fouled driving to the basket.
She missed both free throws, but the Aggies got the offensive rebound and called a timeout with 5.3 seconds left. After the timeout, William drove to the basket, but got her shot blocked, sending the game into overtime.
“We do feel comfortable in late-game situations, and we don’t let it show that we might be uncomfortable, so we always stay composed,” said Mack after scoring six of the team’s 10 points in overtime.
She stole the show in overtime, scoring consecutive baskets to put the Aggies up four a minute into the extra frame. She then weaved through the defense for another score, putting the game on ice by giving NM State the six-point lead with less than a minute left. She finished with a game-high 21 points on an efficient 9-15 from the floor.
“We basically went without our best player for the last 15 minutes of the game (Weber), but we aren’t a one-man team, and we’ve had Brooke Salas step up,” said Trakh after the game. “I mean, a freshman went out there and made a big shot at the end, Mo (Mack) took the game over, and I mean, they don’t want to lose.”
NM State sits at 24-3 on the year, and the Aggies will go for their program record 16th consecutive win when they welcome the University of Texas—Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros to the Pan American Center next Saturday at two p.m., in which Senior Day festivities for Shanice Davis, Sasha Weber, and Abby Scott will also take place.