The New Mexico State women’s basketball team defeated California State University, Bakersfield 67-62 this past Saturday, Feb. 29, in a thrilling overtime home game on Senior Day.
The Aggies improved to 11-17 overall (8-7 WAC), while the Roadrunners fell to 15-13 overall (7-8 WAC).
Aaliyah Prince led the way for the Aggies with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Soufia Inoussa pitched in nine points and nine rebounds.
The game started with a combination of good defense and sloppy offense from both teams, as they combined for nine turnovers in the first seven minutes of play. A CSU Bakersfield player then converted a three-point play in the final seconds of the quarter to close the first period with the Aggies leading 11-9.
The theme of sloppy offense continued in the second quarter, as the Aggies continued to miss easy shots and open layups. NMSU had another end-of-quarter collapse, turning over the ball three times in the final minute, including twice in the last 22 seconds of the quarter, which fortunately for the Aggies resulted in only two points for CSU Bakersfield. NMSU led 21-20 at halftime.
Both teams played their best quarter of the game in the third, with NMSU doubling its score from the first half, and CSU Bakersfield nearly doubling its first-half score. The Aggies’ ball movement was much more fluid, the points in transition kicked up, and the fans were beginning to get on their feet as the intensity of the game turned up.
Prince scored eight of her 20 points in the third quarter through a mix of fast-break scores and pull-up jumpers. The Aggies were up five, 41-36, heading into the fourth quarter.
The scoring continued to increase throughout the opening minutes of the fourth, but as the quarter went on, the defense started to get tighter and the referees were letting the teams play through contact.
With just under three minutes to go, the Aggies trailed 51-55, before going on a 6-2 run to tie the score. After a defensive stop and timeout, NMSU was left with seven seconds to execute a play to win the game. The fans were up on their feet, and their cheers intensified when Prince received the ball at the right wing, where she crossed over her defender, pulled up a few feet in front of the free-throw line and watched her potential game-winning shot rattle in and out of the hoop. The score was tied at 57 at the end of the fourth quarter.
In overtime, the Aggies started on a 5-0 run behind a well-executed play to start the extra period, as well as a transition basket. Great defense down the stretch of the game was the difference, as NMSU forced two crucial turnovers and held CSU Bakersfield to five points in overtime. The final score was 67-62 in favor of the Aggies.
After the game, family, fans and members of the media stayed for the presentation of the four Aggie seniors. Adenike Aderinto, Micayla Buckner, Rodrea Echols and Gia Pack were all honored in their final home game. Pack was chosen to briefly speak about the team’s success and about Senior Day. She thanked her family and coaching staff, before speaking about her teammates. “This group right here, we’re always going to be sisters.”
NMSU coach Brooke Atkinson spoke about the win and thanked the fans for their continued support. “Aggie fans are the best fans. Stick with us this weekend and next. We’re going to make you proud,” Atkinson said.
The women’s basketball team travels to Riverside, California, to play California Baptist University on Thursday, March 5. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.