Aggies get redemption, extend WAC lead with 81-52 thrashing of GCU


Cassidy Kuester

New Mexico State makes amends for their 54-51 loss at Grand Canyon in January with an emphatic 29-point win over their conference rivals.

There would be no upset inside the Pan American Center today as the New Mexico State women’s basketball team took care of business handily defeating Grand Canyon University 81-52.

GCU (5-15, 3-7 WAC) narrowly defeated the Aggies back on Jan. 10 in NM State’s lone conference loss of the season, but it was apparent that head coach Brooke Atkinson and her team were dead set on getting revenge tonight, keeping the foot on the pedal while holding GCU below their already last place points per game average of 56.

“We tweaked the little things with how we were going to guard ball screens, obviously just got out and pressed –back to man (defense), back to zone (defense),” Atkinson said when asked what specifics her team worked on this time around against the Lopes. “The ladies did a great job of executing the game plan – they set the tone from the start, they did everything that I asked.”

The defensive-minded Aggies came out with an extra pep in their step, forcing 13 GCU turnovers in the first half and turning those errors in to easy buckets. Atkinson’s team had 17 points off turnovers in the first half alone, compared to just two for GCU – helping the Aggies get out to a 21 point halftime lead.

“It just shows the maturity of the group, and them just continuing to buy in to that ‘stop-score’ mentality – defensively we can be special, and they’ve shown that,” Atkinson said about her team’s solid defensive numbers (21 total GCU turnovers and 27 points off those turnovers).

From there on, it was the Brooke Salas and Gia Pack show. The dynamic duo were instrumental in the team’s 13-2 run to start up the second half – pushing their lead to as much as 30 points at the six-minute mark in the third quarter. Salas would end her night leading all scorers with 25 points and 18 rebounds, followed by Pack with 19 points and five rebounds of her own.

“I think we feed off of each other’s energy,” Salas said about how she feels playing alongside with junior Gia Pack. “When she starts to pick it up, it kind of brings the rest of the team to pick up too.”

Salas and her remarkable Aggie campaign continues to roll on as she moves up the all-time rebound list at NM State, now in seventh place with her 853 career rebounds.

“It’s very humbling – I’m not too worried about statistics but it’s very cool,” Salas said.

NM State (17-6, 9-1 WAC) adds more insurance to its first-place lead in the WAC with its 20th consecutive conference home win but Atkinson knows that her team still has much to prove.

“Really, our focus is on us,” Atkinson said. “It’s just paying attention to us, making sure were practicing harder than the games.”

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