LAS CRUCES – The seventh-seeded New Mexico State women’s basketball team opens up the 2009 WAC Basketball Tournament Wednesday, March 11, in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Louisiana Tech at 9:30 p.m. MT inside the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev. Fans can watch the game live by signing up at WAC.tv and the Aggie Sports Network is broadcasting the game on KGRT 103.9 FM with the pre-game show starting at 9:15 p.m. Live stats of all WAC Tournament games are available at www.wacsports.com.
NM State (9-21, 5-11 WAC) enters the 2009 tournament looking to advance to the WAC title game for the fourth-straight season. In 2006 and 2007, the Aggies advanced there as the No. 7 seed and in 2008 the Aggies got there as the No. 3 seed. NM State has a tall order in front of them to get back to the championship game, as they will have to upset a La. Tech team that has won its last seven games and swept the season series from the Aggies.
Sophomore guard Madison Spence was named to the all-WAC second team, becoming NM State’s third all-WAC honoree since joining the league in 2005. Guard Kaitlyn Soto and forward Tabytha Wampler were both named to the league’s all-freshman team.
Head coach Darin Spence’s six WAC Tournament victories are the most amongst all active coaches in the conference and he is the only coach in school history to lead New Mexico State to a conference tournament championship game.
This is the third meeting in the WAC Tournament between the two schools furthest east in the WAC. La Tech won the first meeting in 2006, 69-39, in the championship game in Reno, but the Aggies won the next year in the opening round, 63-57, in Las Cruces as the No. 7 seed.
For complete game notes, click on the link at the top of the page.
▪ NM State has been to the last three WAC Tournament Championship games and is just one of three schools in WAC Tournament history to do so.
▫ New Mexico State's wins as the No. 7 seed over a No. 2 seed in 2006 and 2007 are tied for the highest upset based on seeding In WAC Tournament history.
Game Day Quick Facts
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NM State WAC Tourney History
Since joining the WAC in June 2005, the Aggies have had the most success of any school in the WAC Tournament without a ring to show for it. NM State’s six wins in the conference tournament in the last three years are the most in the conference, yet they still have not won the championship. The Aggies became just the third team in WAC Tournament history (joining Utah and Louisiana Tech) to appear in three-straight championship games with last year’s appearance in the finals. In 2006 and 2007 New Mexico State reached the title game as the No. 7 seed, becoming the lowest seed ever to reach the championship game. Its opening round victories over a No. 2 seed both years tied with SMU in 2003 for the highest upset based on seeding in WAC Tournament history. Then last year the Aggies got to the title game as the No. 3 seed and erased a 19-point deficit with 14:37 to play against Boise State in the semifinals to reach the finals. In the last three seasons, the Aggie women’s basketball team is the only team, either men’s or women’s, to play in all three championship games.
Being Swept, No Big Deal
Louisiana Tech swept the season series from the Aggies, winning both games by an average of 17.5 points. NM State has been swept twice before in the regular season by the same opponent it faced in the opening round of the tournament, happening in 2006 and in 2007. In 2006, Fresno State won both games in the regular season by 16 points each time, but the seventh-seeded Aggies knocked off the second-seeded Bulldogs by eight in the opening round. Then the same thing happened in 2007 against La Tech. The Lady Techsters won both games of the regular season by an average of 17 points, but NM State won again as the No. 7 seed in the first round of the tournament, 63-57. New Mexico State is hoping history repeats itself once again this year and they edge Tech on Wednesday.
Aggie Conference Tournament History
New Mexico State is 14-17 in program history playing in 17 conference tournaments. The Aggies have an 11-6 record in their opening game of a conference tournament and have won four out of their last five openers. NM State was 0-2 in the High Country Athletic Conference Tournament (1989-90), were 6-7 in seven Big West Conference Tournaments (1991-00), 2-5 in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament (2000-05) and are 6-3 in the last three WAC Basketball Tournaments.
Solid at the Line
New Mexico State finished the regular season as the league leader in team free-throw percentage at .696. Sophomore guards Danisha Corbett and Madison Spence rank fourth and sixth in the league at the line, shooting 79.8 percent and 78.0 percent, respectively. The Aggies are just one of three schools in the league boasting two players in the Top 10 in free throw shooting. New Mexico State averages 13.3 made free throws a game on 19.2 attempts and are 7-5 on the year when they make 17 or more free throws in a game. Spence’s 110 made shots at the charity stripe this season are the most by a sophomore in program history and she needs to attempt five more free throws to tie for the most ever by a sophomore.
A Tough Regular Season
It has been a tough season for the young Aggies, who lost 71.4 percent of its offense from their 2007-08 squad that went 23-9. New Mexico State’s nine wins so far this year tie for the third fewest in program history and the 21 losses are the most in 36 years of Aggie women’s hoops. With three sophomores and one freshman in the starting five, in addition to five other underclassmen who regularly play, the Aggies have had trouble at times scoring the ball. NM State has scored under 55 points 13 times this year and are 1-15 on the year when scoring under 60. New Mexico State has been streaky shooting the ball and on the year they shot 37.8 percent. Not all has been lost this year however. The Aggies have shown at times to be a very tough team with their athleticism. NM State beat WAC regular season champion Fresno State and Nevada, who at the time was only a half game out of first place. Other big wins this season have been a 23-point win in the season-opener over UC Irvine, a win over rival UTEP and a pair of big wins in the Aggie Thanksgiving Classic.
NM State and Louisiana Tech – The Series
La Tech leads the all-time series with the Aggies, 9-2, after sweeping NM State in the regular season this year. The two teams have split the two meetings in the WAC Tournament, with Tech winning the 2006 championship game and the Aggies winning in the quarterfinals in 2007. New Mexico State’s first-ever win against the Lady Techsters was that 2007 conference tournament victory, when the seventh-seeded Aggies upset No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinals. That tied for the biggest upset based on seeding in WAC Tournament history and it ended La. Tech’s run of 25-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Louisiana Tech was ranked three times when they played NM State, including the first-ever meeting between the two schools in 2001 when they were No. 8 in the nation. NM State is 0-1 against Tech on a neutral court.
Scouting the Lady Techsters
Louisiana Tech is a four-time WAC Tournament Champion (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006) and now have won or tied for the WAC regular season title in seven out of the last eight years with this seasons title split with Fresno State. Tech sports the conference’s player of the year in junior forward Shanavia Dowdell, who averaged 16 points and 9.7 rebounds this season. Dowdell averaged 21.5 points and 12.5 rebounds as she led the Lady Techsters to the season sweep over NM State. Sophomore forward Adrienne Johnson joined Dowdell on the all-WAC first team and she earned a spot on the league’s all-defensive team.
Tech enters the tournament red hot. Its seven-straight wins to close out the year are the most since winning 13 straight at the end of the 2006 season, when they beat NM State in the WAC Tournament Championship game with a No. 16 national ranking. La Tech had the best defense in the league this season, as they led the conference in team field goal percent defense (.364), 3-point field goal percent defense (.274) and blocked shots per game (4.27). The Lady Techsters shoot 40.6 percent from the field, but are last in team free-throw percentage at 59.1 percent. You couldn’t tell that from the regular season finale against NM State, as they sank 24-of-34 attempts at the line to beat the Aggies.
For the second straight season New Mexico State opens up in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament against the opponent they faced in the last game of the regular season. Last year the Aggies faced Hawai’i in the regular season finale and then again in the first round of the conference tournament. Maybe this will be a good omen for the Aggies, since last year they defeated UH by 15 in the conference tournament opener. This is also the second-straight season that NM State has played two different teams in back-to-back games. Last year it was Fresno State and Hawai’i and this year it was the Rainbow Wahine again and now the Lady Techsters. Wednesday’s game against Louisiana Tech marks the 14th time in program history that the Aggies have played the same team in consecutive games in the same season. Six out of these 14 back-to-back games have been against Hawai’i.
Key to the Game
Staying out of foul trouble could be the key for the Aggies against Louisiana Tech on Wednesday. With senior center Niki Holt likely out with her torn ACL, forwards Tabytha Wampler, Erica Sanchez, Kelsie Rozendaal and maybe even Cindy Ekweozor are going to have the challenge of stopping Tech’s first team front court of Shanavia Dowdell and Adrienne Johnson. In the regular season finale against La Tech, Wampler and Sanchez both fouled out. Rozendaal’s playing time was limited because she left with an injury at the end of the first half and Holt only played 11 minutes. New Mexico State was whistled for 24 fouls in that game, helping Tech go 24-of-34 at the free-throw line.
New Mexico State held the Lady Techsters to just four field goals in their first 28 attempts out of the gate and to just 37.9 percent shooting overall in the game last Saturday. Before Saturday’s contests, Tech had been shooting 45 percent in its six previous games and the Lady Techsters where the second best shooting team in the league this year at 40.6 percent. In the first meeting this year on Jan. 30, La Tech shot 40.8 percent and hit a season-high nine 3-pointers. In the last meeting, Tech only made four of its 12 attempts from downtown. Seven of NM State’s nine wins this season have come when they’ve held its opponent to under 40 percent shooting.
No. 7 Seed
For the third time in four seasons in the WAC, the Aggies are the No. 7 seed at the conference tournament. There have been 18 WAC Basketball Tournaments before this year’s and in 14 of those there were enough teams for a No. 7 seed. In those 14 WAC Tournaments, a No. 7 seed has won eight games and half of those have been by New Mexico State. SMU has won three (two of those wins were over a No. 10 seed) and San Jose State got one win as a seven seed (over a No. 10 seed).
New Mexico State has only averaged 9.4 second chance points per game this season, but the Aggies come into the WAC Tournament having averaged 16 in their last two games. NM State had 14 second chance points at Fresno State and then tied its second highest output with 18 against the Lady Techsters last Saturday. New Mexico State’s season-high for second chance points was the 23 they had against Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 30 in the Maggie Dixon Surf `N Slam Classic. Those 23 second chance points came off of a season-high 21 offensive rebounds. The Aggies average 11.3 offensive rebounds per game and have had a dozen or more boards on the offensive end 13 times this year. Freshman forward Tabytha Wampler’s 62 offensive boards leads the team, Niki Holt has 49 and Erica Sanchez and Kelsie Rozendaal have 27 and 25, respectively.
After turning the ball over 23 times in the first game versus La Tech this year, the Aggies came back last Saturday and only had 10 turnovers vs. Tech. That was the third fewest tally on the season and in the eight games in between the two games with Louisiana Tech, NM State averaged 18 giveaways per game. On the season New Mexico State has averaged 16.7 turnovers per game, which was the fourth fewest in the conference. In the nine Aggie wins this season they have averaged 15.1 turnovers, but in the 21 losses they averaged 17.3.
On the Road Again
The Aggies leave Las Cruces and their 8-6 record at home behind them for the conference tournament. NM State is just 1-15 this season when playing outside of Las Cruces. That one win came Feb. 22 at San Jose State and the Aggies lost their only game this year in Reno to host Nevada, 61-56. NM State did play well in their first game in the Lawlor Events Center and had a shot to win it. This season the Aggies have scored 11.4 fewer points per game on the road than they have at home and shoots just 35 percent away from the friendly confines of the Pan American Center.
Sophomore guard Madison Spence was named to the 2009 All-WAC second team as voted on by the conference’s head coaches. She averaged 14.3 points per game in conference play and her nine 20-point games on the year are the second most in the league. Spence joins Anikia Jawara (2008) and Sherell Neal (2007 and 2008) as the school’s three all-WAC honorees and the first Aggie sophomore to be named to an all-conference team since Melanie Maynes in the Big West in 2000. Freshman Kaitlyn Soto and Tabytha Wampler were both named to the league’s all-freshman team, marking the first time in school history that two Aggie freshman have been selected to the all-freshman team in the same season. They also become just the fourth and fifth Aggies ever to be named to an all-freshman team.
What a Warrior
With a torn anterior cruciate ligament that was suffered Feb. 20 at Hawai’i, center Niki Holt returned to the court on senior night against Louisiana Tech. She played 11 minutes despite her injury and had four points, two rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. Holt’s name was left off of the league’s all-defensive team despite leading the conference in blocked shots (59) and her 39 blocked shots in WAC only games were 13 more than any other player. She did all that in three fewer games than every other player in the top 12 and deserved to be on the all-defensive team. Her 59 rejections this season are the third most in Aggie single-season history and her 114 career rejections also ranks third all-time. On Feb. 13 against Nevada, Holt sent back 10 shots and that is the third highest single-game block tally in the NCAA this season. It also tied for the second most blocked shots in a game in school history. Her 2.2 blocks per game this season ranks 29th in the country.
Sanchez Grabs 10
Sophomore forward Erica Sanchez corralled 10 rebounds against La. Tech last Saturday, giving her the second game of her career with 10 or more rebounds. It was the fifth game this season that an Aggie has been in double-digits in the rebounding column (Niki Holt has the other three). Six of her 10 boards against Tech were on the offensive glass, which is a new personal-best. Sanchez has six games this season where she has pulled down five or more rebounds. Also against La Tech, she tied her career-high with four blocked shots. The only other time she has swatted four shots came Feb. 26 against Utah State. Sanchez is second on the team with 22 blocked shots this year and is fifth with 91 rebounds. She has started in the last 15 games for the Aggies.
Wampler’s Got the Touch
Freshman forward Tabytha Wampler enters the WAC Tournament shooting 55 percent from the field in her last five games. In each of her last six games, Wampler has attempted exactly eight field goals and she has scored in double figures in three out of the last five. She is shooting 40.9 percent on the year, which is the highest percentage of anyone on the team that has attempted at least 100 field goals. She has averaged 7.2 points per game this year and scored in double figures nine times. Her 152 rebounds leads the team, as she is looking to become just the fourth Aggie freshman ever to lead the team in rebounding.
Corbett Sets Two New Career-High
Sophomore guard Danisha Corbett set new career-highs in rebounds and blocked shots against Louisiana Tech last Saturday. Corbett grabbed eight rebounds and swatted three shots in the last game of the regular season. The native of San Diego is the teams third leading rebounder (4.2 rpg) and she ranks second on the team, scoring 12 points per game. Her 55 made 3-pointers this season were the fourth most in the conference and she had the ninth best 3-point field goal percentage (.320).
Spence Scores 26
Madison Spence scored the second most points in a game in her career against Louisiana Tech last Saturday. She finished with 26 points on 8-of-22 shooting and she hit three 3-pointers in the game. It was her ninth game of the season scoring 20 or more points and the 10th of her career. Spence had been in a 3-point shooting slump. In the first 11 games of the season she shot 36.8 percent from downtown, but in the 18 games after that she was shooting just 18.1 percent. She had made eight fewer three’s in that 18-game stretch than she did in the first 11. Her three triples against La Tech were the most since the 11th game of the season. This year Spence has averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in two games against Louisiana Tech.
Out of the Gates
For just the 10th time this season, the Aggies took a lead into the locker rooms after leading 38-34 over La Tech last Saturday. NM State is 6-4 this season when they lead at the break, but are just 2-16 when trailing after 20 minutes. The Aggies have averaged 28.1 points in the first half this season and seven of their nine wins have come when they’ve scored 30 points or more in the first 20 minutes. NM State scored 38 points in the first half in its last game and led by as many as 15 after the first 12-plus minutes of the game.
New Mexico State’s 15-point lead in the first half against La Tech, March 7, was its biggest blown lead in a loss this year and the Aggies have coughed up three 10-point leads this season in losses... After not playing a game on Wednesday in the first 13 weeks of the season, NM State plays on Wednesday’s in back-to-back weeks (last of regular season and in conference tourney)... The Aggies have only out-rebounded the opposition seven times this year and are 4-3 in those games... New Mexico State ranks seventh in the conference with 11.37 assists per game, but enters the WAC Tournament having dished out 10 or more assists in seven out of the last nine games...
Walton Eying the Top 10
Senior guard Tyshae Walton has tied Traci Reindle (1988-92) for 10th in school history for the most games played with 118. Walton, who came to NM State from Los Angeles, Calif., has started in the last 78 games for the Aggies and has made 85 starts overall in her career. This season she is the third leading scorer for the Aggies, putting in 7.9 points per game and she ranks eighth in the WAC in minutes played at 32.7 per game.