LAS CRUSES, N.M. — With four players scoring in double digits, the Utah State women's basketball team captured its fifth-straight win with a 74-56 victory against New Mexico State in USU's Western Athletic Conference-opener on Thursday.
The game was played before a crowd of crowd of 3,264, as it was Las Cruces School Day.
With the win, the blue Aggies improve to 10-5 overall and 1-0 in WAC play. USU is now 4-3 in WAC-openers, winning its last three. Utah State is also now 2-1 in WAC road-openers.
This was the first time that USU and NMSU have met to begin conference action. New Mexico State falls to 3-13 overall and 0-1 in league play.
With 13 second-half points, senior guard Brooke Jackson led all scorers with 18 total points, while senior forward Ashlee Brown added 15 points. Senior forward Maddy Plunkett had 13 points, while junior guard Devyn Christensen sunk 12.
Sophomore guard Jennifer Schlott made the most of her minutes with five assists in five minutes of action. The five assists tied a career high for Schlott.
New Mexico State was led by 12 points from both Kelsie Rozendaal and Jasmine Rutledge. The Aggie defense held NMSU's leading scorer, Tabytha Wampler, to only five points. Camila Rosen registered a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The maroon Aggies won the battle of the boards by slightly outrebounding USU 30-28.
Early on it was New Mexico State controlling the boards with an early 6-3 advantage through the first six minutes of the game. Despite the rebounding discrepancy early on, USU jumped out to a 16-13 lead. Utah State would never trail from that point on.
After Brown's first basket with 9:27 left in the first half, Utah State opened up a 20-15 lead. Plunkett's second 3 of the half gave the blue Aggies a 28-19 advantage with 6:44 remaining in the first stanza. Utah State took its first double-digit lead of the game, 31-19, after yet another trey by Plunkett.
A 6-0 run near the end of the half gave Utah State an 11-point lead. A 3 by Jackson with six seconds left in the half gave Utah State its biggest lead of the half, 40-28, which is how the half would end.
In the first 20 minutes, Plunkett led all scorers with 13 points, including going 3 for 3 from beyond the arc. Christensen added seven points with Brown scoring six. USU had eight first-half assists, including four from Schlott.
Both teams started the second half a little turnover prone, but USU fought through to take a 47-32 lead with 15:28 left in the game.
New Mexico State used timely shooting to cut the lead to 47-37 with 12:14 remaining before a Brown old-fashioned three-point play put USU back up 50-37. New Mexico State wasn't done though, using four quick points from Camila Rosen to cut the lead to 54-44 with 9:18 left. NMSU would get no closer from that point on as Utah State put the game away for good.
With less than three minutes remaining, a 3 by Jackson gave USU its then-biggest led of the game at 17 points, 71-54. The Aggies would top that, taking a 74-54 lead with 1:13 remaining.
USU ended the game shooting 54.5 percent from the floor. The Aggies were 6 of 13 from 3-point range (46.2 percent), while shooting 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) from the charity stripe.
New Mexico State was 22 of 50 (44.0 percent) from the field, making 2 of 11 3s (18.2 percent). NMSU was 10 of 15 (66.7 percent) from the free-throw line.
Utah State concludes a road trip at Louisiana Tech on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT. The game is the first half of a doubleheader with the USU men's team. This is the third-straight doubleheader for the Aggies.
Live stats will be available for most Utah State women's basketball games through the women's basketball page on www.utahstateaggies.com.
For tickets, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office at 435-797-0305 or at 1-888-U-STATE-1 (1-888-878-2831) for more information.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.