(This is the fourteenth installment of Bill Harty’s game recaps as part of The Mid Majority ninth season taking readers to mid-major college basketball games around the country. Visit midmajority.com to find out more about this group-sourced effort to spread the word about the many fine basketball programs around the country that are having success on and off the court while generally not having access to the resources brought to athletic programs by big-time college football. Bill will be recapping most Aggie home games, and the occasional road foray, for both The Mid Majority and bleedCrimson.net.)
The second round of the Rio Grande Rivalry in women’s basketball also marked another return to Las Cruces for second year UNM coach Yvonne Sanchez. Before going to UNM, Sanchez had been an assistant to previous NMSU head coaches Mike Peterson and John Sutherland for six years. Most recently she assisted long-time UNM head coach Don Flanagan for eleven years; Sanchez played her prep basketball at Albuquerque Eldorado, playing for Flanagan during Eldorado’s state-record seventy-four game win streak.
Historically, New Mexico State is 22-45 against the Lady Lobos overall and 11-21 in Las Cruces. The last Aggie win against UNM in Las Cruces was in 2007; it was the only NMSU win in the past 12 seasons. Last year in Las Cruces, the Lady Lobos squeaked out a 59-58 victory in a game the Aggies led by eight at the half. Earlier this year, UNM handily defeated a cold-shooting Aggie team, 60-37. Despite taking twelve more field goal attempts than New Mexico, the Aggies made ten fewer goals; 21.9% shooting will not win many games, especially when you are 0-18 from beyond the three-point arc.
Each team had only lost three contests on the season. UNM was defeated by Georgia, 72-42, and by Arizona, 58-53, both in the Pit, and also lost at Houston, 77-62. Besides the earlier loss to the Lady Lobos in Albuquerque, New Mexico State lost a heartbreaker at UC-Santa Barbara, 43-41, and in the rematch of the I-10 rivalry at UTEP, 66-44. (The Aggies won the home game against UTEP 69-68 on a pair of last minute free-throws by junior guard Danesia Williamson and a following steal by senior center Kelsie Rozendaal; it is UTEP’s only loss of the season to this point.)
Before the game, NMSU coach Mark Trakh was honored for his three-hundredth victory as a college head coach; it came over Southern Utah in Cedar City on December 1. In his second year at NMSU, Trakh has also led programs at Pepperdine and Southern California. Also in attendance again on a school holiday, a large contingent of the Roadrunner Revue, NMSU’s outstanding pep band.
Guard Caroline Durbin got the Lady Lobos off to a hot start, banking in a three-pointer from the top of the key, and then making a second from the baseline almost in the corner of the court. Rozendaal made a free throw before UNM guard Sara Halasz made two short jumpers, causing Trakh to take a timeout to attempt to slow the UNM onslaught. Rozendaal’s layup made the score 10-3 before Halasz made a third bucket, Durbin dropped in another corner three, and Lady Lobo forward Khadijah Shumpert’s bucket made the score UNM 17, NMSU 3. The lead slowly climbed the rest of the half for UNM; they led at intermission by 17, 39-22.
Durbin, with fourteen, and Halasz, nine, led the Lady Lobo scoring as they made 50% of their attempts in the first half. The Aggie starters scored twenty of the twenty-two, led by freshman guard Sasha Weber’s seven and Rozendaal’s six. NMSU’s twenty-seven percent shooting included four of twelve from two-point range, and three for fourteen from beyond.
The halftime festivities included a game of musical chairs. Chairs at center court were circled by small children (one fewer chairs than children) dribbling basketballs; when school is in session, these are usually university students. When the music stopped, the children had to run to either goal, make a shot, then sit in a chair while one was available. One child and one chair are eliminated until only one of each remains. Toward the end of the break, everyone who wanted to got the opportunity to dance the Macarena with Santa Claus; band members have almost taught the mascot how to do this and a few other dances.
The second half was fairly closely played, but the Lady Lobos’ lead was never smaller than fourteen and peaked, after the benches were long cleared, at the final margin of twenty-four. The Aggies scored twenty-two points in each period, and played good zone defense much of the game; they simply could not shoot the ball into the basket, partly due to UNM’s effective man-to-man defense. The final score was 68-44.
Aggie freshman Sasha Weber, now in the starting lineup, continued to impress. She led the Aggie scoring with ten, making a three-pointer in each half and all her free throws. Williamson scored nine, Rozendaal eight, and senior forward Camila Rosen added eight late game points. The victorious Lady Lobos were led by Durbin’s eighteen and Halasz’s (all in the first half) nine. Ten Lady Lobos scored, including eight from Antiesha Brown, a Clovis, NM, high school graduate who just became eligible after transferring from Texas Tech.
For UNM, this was the first game of a five-game road trip including trips to UTEP and Colorado before beginning Mountain West play at UNLV and Fresno State. For New Mexico State, this was the first of four home tilts. A non-conference match with Missouri-Kansas City later in the week would be followed by hosting the first two WAC games of the season against Texas-Arlington and perennial women’s basketball power Louisiana Tech.