The New Mexico State Aggies are back.
Okay, that might be a little strong. At least on the men’s side.
However, CBU head coach Jarrod Olson said it best in a recent podcast episode.
“When Jody (Adams) got that job, I think we all knew that New Mexico State was gonna be a tough team. Everywhere she’s been…their teams just pride themselves on being physically tough, gritty. So, nobody’s surprised that they’re doing so well.”
Olson and the Lancers got a taste of that physically tough, gritty mentality on Thursday morning.
Sofia Inoussa hit a runner with 7.1 seconds remaining to lead the New Mexico State Aggies to a 62-61 road win over California Baptist on Thursday morning at CBU Events Center.
If we’ve learned anything through five weeks of WAC play, it’s that every win will be well-earned and hard fought. Evidence of this is the fact that starting Thursday morning 33 of 58 conference games have been decided by 10 points or less. Along with that stat, some of those games required overtime to determine a winner.
It may not have been an overtime game at CBU Events Center Thursday. However, New Mexico State and California Baptist continued the theme of close games.
After losing three games by a combined eight points, the Aggies finally got one to go their way. Inoussa’s runner came right after Lesila Finau hit a pair of free throws to give CBU a 61-60 lead.
“If there’s one thing this conference requires its resiliency,” Aggies head coach Jody Adams said. “And I give our young women a lot of credit for coming in and battling. The nine that stayed along with the nine that came here have done a wonderful job of embracing everything we’re about: empowering, loving, and fighting for each other. They’re starting to rep winning habits here and it’s a new day for us.”
— NM State WBB (@NMStateWBB) February 2, 2023
The Aggies still had to survive a Dorcas Wu 3-pointer at time expired. Wu’s 3-point attempt caught the back rim, bounced up and hit the floor.
What ensued prior to that point was a battle. A battle between the WAC’s top team in scoring defense and one of the WAC’s top offensive teams. The Aggies and Lancers did not disappoint as neither team led by more than 11 points.
Sila Finau gave the Lancers an 8-4 lead midway through the first quarter after a fast break layup.
The Aggies responded with an 9-2 run covering 3:48 to lead 13-10 after a quarter. Ashlee Strawbridge scored seven of the nine New Mexico State points in that run. Strawbridge hit a 3-pointer and a pair of midrange jump shots.
Back to back 3-pointers from Finau and Wu gave CBU a quick 16-15 lead with 8:19 left until the half.
However, Sofia Inoussa responded with a 3-pointer of her own to put the Aggies up 18-16.
A late Lancer 6-0 run put CBU back in front 23-18 with under three minutes to half.
Grace Schmidt, Nae Nae Calhoun, and Kinsley Barrington scored on layups in that stretch. With 44 seconds left, Ene Adams split a pair of free throws to make the Lancer lead three points at 26-23.
The Aggies and Lancers traded leads and ties all the way through the third quarter. CBU took a 46-45 lead after Trinity San Antonio connected on three out of four free throws in the last 50 seconds.
“That’s a much improved team that really gets it done on the defensive end and made it really difficult (in stretches) for us to get into our offense.” Lancers coach Jarrod Olson remarked. “Every possession was a grind and they did a great job of getting us on our heels for much of the game. All credit to Jody for the job she’s done with that team so far.”
With 6:10 left in the fourth quarter, Nae Nae Calhoun connected on a transition 3-pointer to give CBU its largest lead at 53-47. It capped a 7-2 run covering 3:50.
Inoussa then converted three out of four free throws and connected on a 3-pointer in a span of 1:04 to put the Aggies ahead 59-57.
San Antonio’s layup knotted things up 17 seconds later. However, San Antonio fouled out on the next Aggies offensive possession.
After Finau’s free throws, Inoussa made the play of the game. With Lesila Finau riding her hip, Inoussa got in the paint, lifted a floater that found the rim and then the bottom of the net.
“Sofia has been playing well recently (this week’s WAC Player of the Week) and reaping the benefits of extra work with assistant Patrick Harrison.” Adams said of Inoussa’s recent good form (averaging 20.5 PPG in her last two games and shooting a combined 14-31 from the field).
“It was a great game between two teams that fought hard for 40 minutes that if I wasn’t a coach I’d have paid good money to come and watch as a fan. That’s what this conference is.”
Sylena Peterson – 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assist and 2 steals
Ashlee Strawbridge – 13 points and 4 rebounds
Sofia Inoussa – 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Molly Kaiser- 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists
Grace Schmidt- 16 points and 7 rebounds
Trinity San Antonio- 15 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals
Sila Finau- 12 points and 8 rebounds
On Saturday, the Aggies welcome GCU to the Pan Am Center. Meanwhile, the Lancers welcome Sam Houston in part one of a doubleheader with the CBU men’s team.