NM State women breeze by Rio Grande Valley for WAC title
LAS VEGAS (AP) New Mexico State is going to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season, but this time coach Mark Trakh is hoping for a longer postseason run.
After the Aggies defeated Texas Rio Grande Valley 80-53 in the final of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday, Trakh said he wants to be more than just a one-and-done team.
Last season, his team lost in the first round to Maryland.
''I don't want to go and have a cup of coffee,'' he said. ''I want to have at least a half sandwich this time. I want to be in a very competitive game and maybe win a game, and I think that's got to be the realistic goal of this team.''
The Aggies (26-4), who won the WAC regular-season title, cruised in the championship game, leading by as many as 22 points in the first half and holding off a brief Rio Grande Valley rally in the third period.
Freshman Brooke Salas led New Mexico State with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Sasha Weber, the tournament's MVP, had 16, and Shanice Davis added 11.
Anushka Maldonado led the Vaqueros with 14 points. Hildur Bjorg Kjartansdottir had 10 and nine rebounds. Shawnte' Goff, the team's leading scorer during the season, was held to six points on 2-of-10 shooting.
''We knew we had to limit her scoring and I thought Moriah Mack did an outstanding defensive job there,'' Trakh said ''They all did a great defensive job. They were focused.''
The Aggies used a 14-0 run in the opening quarter and an 11-0 run in the second to lead 36-16. Rio Grande Valley missed 12 shots in a row.
''Coming into this championship game, we felt like we had to start of strong and keep the intensity up,'' Weber said. ''We dipped a little bit in the third quarter, but we refocused in the fourth and got it together.''
The Vaqueros (19-13) used a 10-run in the third to cut their deficit to 54-42, but the Aggies pushed their lead to 19 midway through the fourth.
''They shot the ball extremely well,'' Rio Grande Valley coach Larry Tidwell said. ''They shot at a 54-percent clip in the first half and 48 percent for the game, so you've got to give them credit. They have a very experienced team and they're deep.
''We need to figure how to shoot well for the entire game instead of different segments.''
Salas was 9-of-14 shooting and frequently scored on drives to the basket. Weber was on target from outside, making 4 of 9 3-pointers. Shanice Davis added 11 points for the Aggies.
Rio Grande Valley: The Vaqueros made just 8 of 33 field-goal attempts in the first half (24 percent) after shooting 30 percent Friday night in a semifinal win over Cal State Bakersfield. But Tidwell said he didn't tell his players to exercise patience. ''I tell my girls to keep shooting.''
New Mexico State: The Aggies scored 34 points in the paint, which Tidwell said was more by chance than by plan. ''Things just opened up like that. We score a lot of points in the paint off layups. It's not back-to-the-basket post play. We've got some athletic kids that can get to the rim and get to the basket.''
New Mexico State: The Aggies qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row.
Rio Grande Valley: Tidwell said he hopes the Vaqueros will receive an invitation to the women's NIT.