Women's basketball roundup: Utes make crucial free throws down the stretch
Senior forward Ashlee Brown pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points. Saturday was Brown's ninth double-digit rebounding outing, and she also dished out a season-high five assists. Plunkett matched Brown with five assists for a new career-high.
NMSU also had three players in double-figures, led by Tabytha Wampler's game-best 12 points, while Kelsie Rozendaal and Dre Chenier tossed in 10 each. Wampler and Erica Sanchez snared seven rebounds each as the maroon Aggies had a slight 38-35 rebounding edge, as USU is now 8-7 when outrebounding the opposition.
The home Aggies shot 22-of-53 (41.5 percent) from the field, including 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range, as Plunkett hit a pair of treys and senior guard Brooke Jackson added one. USU was also 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) at the free-throw line.
NMSU made 31.0 percent (18-of-58) of its field goals, making 17.4 percent (4-of-23) behind the arc, and were 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) at the charity stripe.
The USU defense forced 20 NMSU turnovers, which the home team converted into a 26-12 points off turnovers advantage, and Utah State also had a 36-22 points in the paint edge.
Neither team could find the bottom of the net in the early going before NMSU's Rozendaal hit a layup with 17:35 on the clock for the visiting Aggies' lone lead of the game. USU later opened up a 16-8 lead after a Jackson layup at the 9:44 mark, but NMSU closed to 16-12 with 8:21 on the clock after a bucket by Camila Rosen. That would be the closest the maroon clad team would get, as the home Aggies took to 27-16 lead with eight seconds left in the half on an old-fashioned three-point play by Johnson before Rosen hit another basket with two ticks to go for the 27-18 halftime score in USU's favor.
Held scoreless in the first half, Christensen changed that in a hurry, sparking a 12-5 run to open the half with a layup just 24 seconds into action and closing it on another layup, both starting by steals from Johnson, and USU took a 39-23 lead with 16:05 on the second-half clock. New Mexico State closed the gap to seven on two different occassions, the last at 11:40 left after a layup by Wampler, but the home Aggies wouldn't let the visitors get any closer, as Christensen converted a three-point play with 10:53 on the clock and USU's defense closed out the win. The navy Aggie advantage grew to 52-38 with 3:55 to play on a Johnson jumper and NMSU didn't get any closer than nine points in the final minutes.
Utah State hits the road for its final regular-season road trip, heading to Reno, Nev., to take on Nevada on Thursday, Feb. 16 and at Fresno, Calif., against Fresno State on Saturday, Feb. 18. Both games on the road trip tip at 8 p.m. (MT). USU returns home to close out the regular season with a three-game homestand, opening on Saturday, March 25 against Idaho in a 2 p.m. tipoff.
SUU 58, IUPUI 48: At Cedar City, Kimie Hawkins turned in a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with 16 points, hitting a career-best 12 free throws on 14 attempts to help SUU earn its fourth home victory this season.
"That was a great team effort,"? said SUU head coach JR Payne after the game. "Kimie was great, Angel Dorn gave us some great minutes and Taylor Maynes did well."
The Thunderbirds got things going behind the efforts of Tayler Anderson, who scored 11 of the team's first 15 points to help SUU (6-19, 2-12 Summit) build a four-point edge halfway through the opening period. The junior forward started the game 4-of-5 from the field, which included a step-back trey from the left wing.
The T-Birds increased their advantage in the closing minutes of the half as Anderson stepped in front of a Jaguar pass and found Angel Dorn streaking down the court in transition for a layup and a foul. Her free throw put SUU up 25-18 with 2:50 left on the clock. Southern Utah then got back-to-back baskets from Dorn and Kimie Hawkins to increase its lead to 29-21 at the break.
The Thunderbirds shot the ball 44 percent in the first half while their defense held IUPUI to just 28.6 percent. Anderson's 11 led all scorers in the opening period and freshman forward Nevena Markovic had seven for the Jaguars.
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