Utah Valley finished their two-game home stint against New Mexico State on Saturday, Feb. 15. The Wolverines couldn’t find the basket when it mattered most and ultimately fell to the Aggies 65-58.
This was the second matchup between the two teams, the first ended in favor of the Wolverines, who won by four and ended the Aggies 23-home-game winning streak in WAC play.
It was a back-and-forth kind of game between NMSU and UVU. The largest lead never reached double-digits, but it was the Aggies that had the bigger leads throughout. At two separate times in the game, NMSU reached seven-point leads, while UVU came up close, leading by as many as six once in the second quarter.
“We had open shots that just didn’t go out way but that’s on us,” said UVU head coach Dan Nielson. “You can’t shoot 32% at home and think you’re going to win against a team that has some toughness, and that’s what got us in the fourth quarter.”
NMSU controlled the entirety of the fourth quarter, going on an 11-0 run and holding the Wolverines to only two successful field goals at 12.5%.
The Aggies, on the other hand, seemed to have a gaping cylinder, shooting over 60% from the field in two different quarters. One player in particular couldn’t miss — senior guard Rodrea Echols was perfect from the field with six shots, perfect from deep with four shots and almost perfect from the charity stripe, 3-4. That missed free throw didn’t come until 33 seconds left in the game.
On the Wolverine side of the ball it was sophomore guard Madison Grange who stepped up and put 11 points on the board, tying her season-high. She shot 3-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe. Senior forward Jordan Holland added 11 points herself on 4-of-14 shooting.
The two main difference makers came from the lack of rebounds on the UVU side and the amount of points the Aggies bench put on the board. UVU was out rebounded 42-30 and the Aggie bench scored 30 points, 19 of which came from Echols.
Only two players saw points that came off the bench, neither of whom see many minutes or many points. To go along with Grange’s 11 points, freshman guard Sydney Wright put up six points of her own, tying her career-high. Her six points came from two deep balls in only five minutes of play, giving her 100% shooting on the day.
Going back to the fourth quarter, one Aggie player tied the amount of eight points the entire Wolverine roster put up. That player, was of course, was Echols. Sophomore center Josie Williams led the way in the fourth with five points, three of which came from the charity stripe. She would finish the night with nine points, nine rebounds and went perfect 5-for-5 from the stripe.
The clock wound down with the Wolverines within two possessions of tying the game and two minutes left on the clock. NMSU’s junior guard Aaliyah Prince hit a jumper to make it a seven-point game, her 14th point of the day. UVU’s sophomore forward Eve Braslis would cut it back to five with just over a minute left, but the Wolverines were forced to foul.
NMSU would have the final say with two free throws, one by Echols and one by freshman forward Shania Harper, and the Aggies would leave with a 65-58 win.
With only five WAC games left, the Wolverines will need to pull out all of the stops to maintain and improve on their WAC standings before the WAC tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada March 11-14. A two-game away trip is next, first against CSU Bakersfield on Thursday, Feb. 26, followed by Grand Canyon on Saturday, Feb 22. The last home game will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
For now, the Wolverines stay tied in fourth place with CSU Bakersfield both with WAC record of 6-5.