EDINBURG, Texas — The New Mexico State women's basketball team outlasted UT Rio Grande Valley, 70-67, in Edinburg on Saturday night for its 11th-straight win and clinched the #1 seed in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament for the fifth-straight year.
The Aggies (20-6, 12-1) fell behind 4-0 early before a Monique Mills three with 8:42 in the first got NM State on the board. UTRGV (14-12, 8-5) then went a 7-2 run to lead 11-5 with 4:32 on the clock. The two sides then went back-and-forth, with an Adenike Aderinto layup with 47 seconds trimming the Aggies' deficit to 14-11 heading into the second.
After UT Rio Grande Valley extended its lead to 16-11 a minute into the second, Monique Mills made her second three of the game to cut the lead to 16-14. Then, with NM State trailing 22-17 after the media timeout at 4:43, Gia Pack scored five-straight points to tie the game at 22 with 3:44 in the half. However, the Vaqueros went on an 8-3 run, including a perfect 6-6 from the line, to lead 30-25 at the half. Pack and Monique Mills both scored seven for the Aggies in the half. NM State shot just 25.7% before the break.
Coming out of the break, New Mexico State went on a 10-4 run, including six-straight from Brooke Salas, to take a 35-34 lead halfway through the third. However, the Vaqueros then scored six-straight to reclaim the lead at 40-35. Then, Salas and Stabresa McDaniel hit back-to-back threes to kick off a 15-7 run that gave the Aggies a 49-47 lead heading into the fourth following a floater from Pack with five seconds left. New Mexico State dropped 24 points in the period including making 6-6 from the charity stripe with Salas scoring 11 in the quarter.
NM State quickly expanded its lead to 57-51 after a pair of free throws from Dominique Mills at the 6:22 mark. UTRGV continued to battle and pulled back within two, 59-57, with 4:36 to play. However, Monique Mills drilled a three before Salas and Pack went back-to-back to give the Aggies their biggest lead of the night at 66-58. The Vaqueros pulled within three, but McDaniel knocked down two free throws with 22.3 seconds left to give NM state a 68-63 lead.
Then, UT Rio Grande Valley pulled within three again but Salas was clutch from the line with 18.8 seconds. After the Vaqueros made it 70-67 with 1.7 left, New Mexico State was able to inbound the ball and run out the clock for the win. The Aggies shot 50-percent from the floor in the fourth.
Salas finished the game with 20 points as she moved into second on the NM State all-time scoring list with 1,806 points. She's just the second Aggie to score 1,800 points, along with Anita Maxwell (2,601).
Pack added 17 points, four boards and five assists while Monique Mills dropped 12 points to go with five steals. Pack went a perfect 7-7 from the line while Monique Mills made three three-pointers.
After shooting, just 25.7-percent (9-35) from the field in the first half, New Mexico State finished the game at 35.4-percent (23-65). The Vaqueros outrebounded the Aggies 44-36 but New Mexico State forced 19 turnovers while turning it over just 10 times.
New Mexico State women's basketball team is back in action when it returns to the City of Crosses on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. (MT) with a chance to clinch its fifth-straight WAC regular-season championship against Kansas City.