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UVU basketball: WAC powerhouse New Mexico State holds off fierce Wolverines

Utah Valley senior point guard Mariah Seals (left) dribbles the ball up the court in the squad's home WAC contest versus New Mexico State.
Utah Valley senior point guard Mariah Seals (left) dribbles the ball up the court in the squad's home WAC contest versus New Mexico State.
Marcela Olsen, UVU Athletics

Senior guards Mariah Seals and Taylor Christensen enjoyed a combined 35 points and helped Utah Valley women's basketball take a 30-24 lead into halftime during their final appearance at WAC powerhouse New Mexico State.

In spite of the Wolverines' (10-15, 46 WAC) hot-shooting second quarter, however, the three-time defending WAC champion Aggies (13-11, 7-3 WAC) used a 16-0, third-quarter run to hold off UVU by a score of 59-51 on Thursday evening inside the Pan American Center.

Seals tallied a team-high 19 points and Christensen added 15 points of her own, as UVU's dynamic backcourt duo accounted for more than half of the Utah Valley scoring offense for the ninth time this season.

"I felt like we came out and executed our game plan well," said Utah Valley head coach Cathy Nixon. "I definitely felt like we had our chances, but tonight we just weren't good enough. But it's a learning process and I was proud of the way the girls kept coming back and didn't give up. I think when we learn to focus and not get caught up in anything else we can maybe knock off one of these top teams in the WAC."

NMSU countered with 43 points combing among its own pair of seniors from guard Brooke Salas and forward Gia Pack. Salas scored a game-high 25 points, and Pack concluded a double-double effort with 18 points and 11 rebounds to help the Aggies protect their turf.

"They're a good team, with Salas being one of the best players in the league and Pack not too far off. Defensively, our hope was to hold them within the 50-point range. When you combine their two kids with 43 of their 59 points. Those two came out in the third quarter and took over," Nixon said.

The Wolverines took a six-point lead into the halftime break behind a 20-6 run and a pinpoint shooting performance that saw them finish with a 61.5 percent shooting clip during the second period. Seals led the run with 14 points in the second quarter along with one assist in the half.

Among UVU's big second quarter run, Seals scorching jumpshot produced three straight 3-pointers near the right wing and left wings and up top to cap an 18-2 scoring burst by the squad. The Wolverines' sixth 3-point basket of their eight makes from downtown on the day put them ahead 28-20 with 2:20 to go in the first half.

In response to a 10-0 New Mexico State run, Seals also put UVU on the scoreboard with back-to-back baskets to bring the squad to within 18-15. Seals nailed the third 3-pointer by the Wolverines and then drove for a layup to cut the deficit to five with 6:33 left in the first half.

Sophomore forward Jordan Holland added to a 7-0 scoring spurt for the Wolverines on a spin move in the post for an easy layup to bring the score to 18-17. Christensen then extended the short spree to 9-2 by hitting another jumper to cut the Aggie lead to 20-19 with 5:17 remaining in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, NMSU pulled ahead, 36-32, on Salas' fourth-consecutive basket and a 3-pointer by senior forward Gia Pack that pushed their offensive rush to 12-0 with 4:27 left in the third quarter. Pack then added another bucket inside to put NMSU ahead 38-32, helping extend its run to 16-0 following a basket by sophomore forward Jasmine Toilolo.

Christensen ended the streaky stretch by the Aggies with a personal 4-0 run against NMSU to close the third quarter. The 5-8 guard's personal burst began one last scoring stretch for UVU's current active 1,000-point scorers, as Christensen and Seals finished with 14 of the Wolverines' final 19 points of the contest.

After falling behind by as many as 13 points, Utah Valley concluded the game on an 8-0 run in the final 2:59 of action before time expired with the Aggies securing their scoring advantage at the last buzzer. During that stretch, Seals added her season-high-matching fifth 3-pointer as part of the comeback attempt.

In the rebounding department, Christensen led UVU with seven rebounds on the day and added a pair of steals as well. Holland was close behind with six boards on the night.

The Wolverines will now finalize their two-game road swing Saturday in the Lone Star State when they take on UT Rio Grande Valley. Tipoff from the UTRGV Fieldhouse is set for 6 p.m. MT.