Aggies dominate in season opener against UTPB

The New Mexico State women’s basketball team got out to an ideal start to the 2018-2019 season Tuesday night, routing UT Permian Basin 70-38 behind that stellar defensive play that Brooke Atkinson has prided her team on since last year.

“What I liked was our energy and our effort, defensively. I thought we did a really good job challenging them on that end if the floor,” Atkinson said. “We turned them over 26 times, [had] 10 steals, and held them to 38 points… That’s where we make or break the game and we need to have pride on that end.”

NM State was dominant from the opening tip, jumping out to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter — that would grow up to 35 by the fourth — while holding the Eagles to just 2-of-12 shooting from the floor.

UTPB’s struggles continued throughout the whole 40 minutes, with the team making just 27 percent of their shots and managing to get to the line just eight times (converting four of those tries).

The Aggies had their fair share to over come on offense as well, hitting just one of their 14 three point tries while shooting a mediocre 44 percent from the field and turning the ball over 21 times themselves, but their suffocating defense set up easy opportunities — in the form of 25 fast break points and 44 points in the paint — that would keep things comfortable for Atkinson’s squad.

Weathering a shooting drought is a lot easier when a team has two preseason all-conference players at their disposal, too, and the duo of Brooke Salas and Gia Pack were as advertised for NM State in their season opener.

Salas showed why she’s the favorite to bring home a second straight WAC Player of the Year award, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds while Pack picked up her first of many double-doubles of the season with 17 points and 10 boards.

Going forward, though, a third offensive option will need to step up for NM State if the Aggies hope to bring home their fifth straight conference title, according to Atkinson.

“That’s kind of what we went out and recruited… We need people to go out and make plays for Gia and for Brooke, you know, to set them up,” Atkinson said. “[Monique Mills] will be better. She’ll shoot it better, she just has to look for her shot, and [Aaliyah Prince] brought some great athleticism… She’ll score buckets for us.”

NM State will have a chance to build on their impressive start this Sunday when they travel to Kalamazoo to take on the Western Michigan Mustangs.

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