LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The New Mexico State women’s basketball team put together a dominant defensive performance as it forced 33 turnovers in a 90-54 rout of Chicago State in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at the Orleans Arena to extend its winning stream to 15 games, which is tied for second-longest in school history.
“Everything’s easier when we’re good on that defensive end,” said head coach Brooke Atkinson. “It just makes it so much easier so we don’t have to rely on running sets for Gia or Brooke, when we can get a steal and a score. You can see how much energy and momentum we play with off of that.”
Despite entering as the eight seed, Chicago State started blow-for-blow with the top-seeded Aggies as NM State led just 12-11 at the 6:10 mark. However, a fast break bucket from Gia Pack kicked off an 11-0 Aggie run to take a 23-11 lead with two minutes to play in the first quarter. Pack then knocked down a three for a 26-14 lead.
Then, Chicago State scored six of the quarter’s final seven points to cut the NM State lead to 27-20 at the end of one. Both sides shot the ball well with New Mexico State making 10 of its 17 shots and Chicago State shooting 8-13 while the Aggies forced nine turnovers in the quarter.
NM State started the second quarter slow as the Cougars were able to get within four at 31-27 with 7:23 to play in the half. Pack then forced a turnover and made the transition lay up as the Aggies went on a 20-5 run to lead 51-32, after a Salas three, with 1:14 left in the second. Pack scored 12 points during the run. Salas then drilled another three followed by a free throw from Tayelin Grays as New Mexico State led 55-34 at the half.
The Aggies held Chicago State to 40 percent shooting in the quarter while shots at a .600 clip (9-15). NM State forced eight more turnovers in the quarter including 13 points of those turnovers. Pack had 20 points at the half on 7-8 shooting from the field.
NM State’s dominance on the defensive end carried over into the second half as they forced 10 more turnovers in the third quarter. Pack and Aaliyah Prince shouldered the load offensively in the third quarter with Pack dropping eight with two threes and Prince scoring 10 on a perfect 5-5 from the floor. New Mexico State’s lead ballooned to as much as 35, with the Aggies leading 81-46.
From there, NM State was able to rest its starters for the fourth quarter and cruise to a 90-54 final score in its opening game of the WAC Tournament.
Pack dropped 28 on 10-13 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-4 from three. She also recorded seven steals which tied the record for most steals in a WAC Tournament game. Prince added 14 points off the bench while Salas scored 11 and pulled down six boards.
As a squad, the Aggies forced a season-high 33 turnovers while scoring 44 points off those turnovers, including 22 fast-break points. CSU outrebounded NM State 39-36 but NM State outshot the Cougars 49.3 percent (35-71) to 40.8 percent (20-49).
New Mexico State is back in action on Friday at 1 p.m. against the winner of the Kansas City-Utah Valley quarterfinal matchup. Friday’s game is set to stream live on ESPN+.