(This is the fifteenth 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.)
Four days before Christmas, both the Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos and the New Mexico State Aggies faced off in each team’s final game before beginning conference play. The Kangaroos come into Las Cruces with a 4-8 record, and a four-game losing streak, having last won on November 30 at Air Force. The ‘Roos other Division I victories had come against Southeast Missouri State and at LIU. The Aggies’ record was 5-4; they had just lost rivalry games at UTEP and to New Mexico. The Aggies and Kangaroos have met three times historically: first in the consolation game of 1989 Cowgirl Classic, a 61-58 NMSU victory; next, in the opening round of the 2005 UTSA Thanksgiving Classic, won by the ‘Roos 89-55; and last season’s 68-57 win by the ‘Roos in Kansas City.
Kansas City is a member of the Summit League, which is pushing away from using initials and hyphens to describe their teams, asking people to call their teams Kansas City, not UMKC; Omaha, not UNO or Nebraska-Omaha; and Fort Wayne, not IPFW or Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne. (Liking the city thing is probably why they have raided the WAC for Denver, who moves there next year.) In the Summit’s preseason combined coaches/media poll for this season, Kansas City was picked second behind South Dakota State. WAC coaches projected the Aggies eighth in the 2012-13 WAC; the media had them ninth.
The ‘Roos won the opening tip, and both teams deployed their zone defenses. This has been a year for New Mexico State dependent on the shooting touch of the starters, particularly senior guard Stefanie Gilbreath, senior forward Kelsie Rozendaal, and sophomore guard Danesia Williamson. Tonight, the Aggie shooters were on. Gilbreath broke the ice driving to the hoop for a bucket. Freshman guard Sasha Weber dropped in a three from the right wing. Kansas City took a timeout, and junior center Ashli Hill made a turnaround jumper. Rozendaal canned two free throws. Gilbreath made a three from the left wing and then drove to the basket for an old-fashioned three point play. Weber’s nine-foot baseline jumper put the Aggies up 15-2, prompting Kansas City coach Marsha Frese’s second timeout. Rozendaal dropped in a three-pointer from the right wing. ‘Roos guard Eilise O’Connor’s jumper made the score 18-4, and Aggie coach Mark Trakh called timeout, mostly to let the team catch its collective breath.
The game continued more or less in the same fashion. NMSU made 6 first-half three-pointers, three by Gilbreath. Earlier in the season, one of my midmajority.com teammates wrote a story called, “What’s our score? Double yours!” This game reached another level, with the Aggie lead at one point being 33-11.
After that last media timeout of the first half, Kansas City, led by center Hailey Houser’s six points, went on a 10-0 run to close out the half down 33-21. For the first half, Gilbreath led all scorers with fourteen; Williamson added seven for the Aggies. O’Connor scored eight and Houser six to lead the Kangaroos.
After the intermission, guard Lauren Dudding scored the first bucket for KC, extending their run to twelve. The Aggies responded with an 11-2 run of their own, started by Weber’ second three-pointer of the night on the baseline, keyed by Camila Rosen’s four points and finished by Williamson’s trifecta from the right wing. The Aggies 45-25 lead at that point was never reduced to fewer than fourteen, and their three point barrage continued, with Elena Holguin, Weber, Abby Scott, Alexis Nelson contributing, and two more from Williamson. The benches were cleared after the final media timeout, and the reserves extended the final score to 75-25.
The fourteen three-point field goals by New Mexico State was impressive, but was only two-thirds of the school record twenty-one, scored against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2002; the school record is also the NCAA Division I record for three-pointers made in a game. Three Aggies scored in double figures: Williamson with twenty-one points, Gilbreath fifteen, and Weber adding twelve; eight other Aggies contributed to the scoring. Kansas City was led by Eilise O’Connor’s twenty-one points, thirteen of which came from the free throw line. Dudding and Houser each added eight.
Kansas City returns home to begin Summit League action against Omaha on December 28. The next night, the Aggies begin WAC play hosting UT-Arlington.