LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Junior Danesia Williamson tallied a career-high 37 points and sophomore Sasha Weber picked up her third career double-double as No. 5 seed New Mexico State came-from-behind to defeat No. 4 seed Texas-Pan American 86-74 in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Western Athletic Conference Tournament, Wednesday, March 12 in The Orleans Arena. NM State moves to 11-19 on the year and UTPA finishes its season 14-16.
The Aggies entered the second half down by 12 points and trailed by as many as 14 but tough defensive and great shooting pushed the team to victory. The Aggies were down 54-40 with 2 minutes and 10 seconds into the second half but went on a 15-1 scoring run to tie the game at 55-55 with 14:08 left in the second half. NM State took its first lead when freshman Brandee Walton put in a lay-up making it a 57-55 ballgame.
NM State surged for a 14-4 run, which included a 3-pointer from sophomore Abby Scott to take a 71-59 advantage with 8:59 left in regulation. The Aggies would hold on from that point forward to pick up the win and head to the semifinals taking on No. 1 seed Idaho at 1 p.m. (MT) on Friday, March 14.
“Slowly but surely we just chipped away and Danesia (Williamson) was just awesome today, especially her leadership,” assistant coach Tamara Inoue said. “Sasha (Weber) played great and she is a big team player. She always does it silently and today she was huge for us.”
Weber finished the afternoon with 19 points and 10 rebounds while adding two assists in 36 minutes of play. The Aggies as a team ended with a 43.1 percent field goal percentage after going 50 percent from the field in the second half. NM State out-rebounded the Broncs 47-45 with five Aggies marking five or more boards.
UTPA started the game on an 8-0 run before Williamson hit two free throws at the 16:12 mark of the first half. NM State went on a 7-5 run to pull to within four points with 14 minutes in the half and pulled to within one at 18-17 forcing UTPA to call a timeout with 11:30 left in the first half.
The Aggies hung tough with UTPA and stayed within two at 23-21 with 10:16 left in the half after Williamson hit two more shots from the charity stripe. The Broncs used a 9-0 run to take a 30-21 lead at the 8:09 mark. After fought for baskets on the offensive side of the court and reached the 30-point mark when freshman Tyler Ellis put in a lay-up making it a 43-30 game. Both teams exchanged shots and went into the locker room with UTPA leading 48-36.
The Aggies struggled in the first half from the field hitting only 10-of-39 shots (34.5 percent) and hitting only 2-of-13 from behind the 3-point arc. Williamson led the Aggies with 24 points hitting 5-of-10 shots and going a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line. UTPA hit 41 percent of its shots in the first half and committed only four turnovers.
Williamson’s 37 points were just three points short of the NM State single-game record of 40 points, which was set by Aggie great Anita Maxwell against UC Irvine in 1995. Williamson’s 17 free throws also breaking a 35-year-old school record for free throws in a game. The previous record of 16 was held by Caron Krueger and set back in 1979.