New Mexico State women’s basketball begins WAC Tourney with blowout victory over Chicago State

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New Mexico State women’s basketball begins WAC Tourney with blowout victory over Chicago State

Gia Pack scores 28 points in 28 minutes and records a WAC Tournament record seven steals in the Aggies' 90-54 win over Chicago State.

Gia Pack scores 28 points in 28 minutes and records a WAC Tournament record seven steals in the Aggies' 90-54 win over Chicago State.

Mitchell Allred

Gia Pack scores 28 points in 28 minutes and records a WAC Tournament record seven steals in the Aggies' 90-54 win over Chicago State.

Mitchell Allred

Mitchell Allred

Gia Pack scores 28 points in 28 minutes and records a WAC Tournament record seven steals in the Aggies' 90-54 win over Chicago State.

The top-seeded New Mexico State women’s basketball team kicked off the WAC Tournament with a display of defensive and transition masterclass, thumping Chicago State 90-54 on their way to a semifinal matchup between the winner of CSU Bakersfield and UT Rio Grande Valley.

It wasn’t easy for NM State out of the gate, with Chicago State hanging tight after shooting over 60 percent in the opening period, but the Aggies’ 22-7 run to end the second proved to be the irreversible shift of the tide that led to another blowout victory for head coach Brooke Atkinson and her team.

“I thought, even in the first quarter, defensively, we were in the right spots. They just hit some really tough shots, but if you do percentages, I knew we would continue to be in the right spots and their percentage would go down,” Atkinson said. “They ended up shooting 40 percent for the game when they were shooting 60 in the first half… Again that’s just been our glue all year long is that defensive end.”

NM State would force 33 Cougar turnovers and score 44 points off those turnovers — and a lot of that was done in the first 30 minutes (with the fourth quarter featuring few heavy rotation players).

Recently named All-WAC First-Teamer Gia Pack led the way with an unbelievably efficient 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting in just 28 minutes while recording a tournament record seven steals, with back-to-back WAC Player of the Year Brooke Salas chipping in 11 and 6 rebounds and Aaliyah Prince tacking on 14 off the bench.

“[In a tournament setting,] I just think we have to be more mentally prepared, especially going back to back, only getting a little bit of time to practice what we do,” Pack said. “[But tonight] I just came out hard — regardless of who we play, I want to be consistent in this tournament. This is what we came here for and we came here to win.”

The Aggies’ dominant showing Wednesday afternoon will only help the team’s confidence as they aim to redeem themselves after last year’s early exit from the WAC tournament that kept them out of the Big Dance.

At this point, NM State’s semifinal opponent is yet to be determined, but whoever it ends up being, the Aggies will take them on Friday afternoon at Orleans arena and they will be more than ready, according to Atkinson.

“It’s about us. It’s not about the outside noise, it’s not about who we face, it’s about us,” Atkinson said. “I told this team I trust them — I trust them 100 percent… They’ll be ready to go whoever we play. They make great adjustments, so they’ll be ready.”

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