Seattle University women’s basketball (11-12, 6-4 WAC) played a close contest with New Mexico State (8-15, 5-5 WAC) and earned several leads midway through the second half, but could not keep the advantage as they fell, 86-81, in a Western Athletic Conference competition in Las Cruces, N.M.

“I thought we played with a lot more defensive intensity in the second half, but it’s about sustaining the runs,” said head coach Joan Bonvicini. “We got back into the ballgame and got a little bit of a lead, but we need to improve on team defense and rebounding. We need to play better and we will.”

Alexis Montgomery (Beaverton, Ore.) scored the first points on a fast break layup following a steal before the lead changed hands three different times over the next two minutes as the Aggies led, 6-4, on a pair of three’s at 16:51.

New Mexico State would lead by as many as four three different times as they held the lead over the next five minutes, but the Redhawks tied the game at 14 on an 8-4 run starting at 14:09. Kristin Stoffel (Mill Creek, Wash.) regained the lead on a similar play to Montgomery’s opening points but Danesia Williamson would tie the game again at 16 just 10 seconds later on a pair of free throws.

Kacie Sowell (Ventura, Calif.) regained the Redhawk lead on a layup and Makenna Clark (Lake Tapps, Wash.) hit a clutch three to put SU ahead by five, 21-16, at 10:43, but NM State would go on an 11-2 run over the next four minutes to lead by four, 27-23, at 6:47.

Williamson’s second three-pointer of the game put the Aggies ahead by eight and they extended their lead into double digits, 37-27, by 2:46.

Clark hit another key three before Taelor Ross (Vancouver, Wash.) and Wilma Afunugo (Plano, Texas) each went 1-for-2 at the line to trail by seven, 39-32, at the half.

Seattle U came out of the halftime break with increased intensity as Sowell drew the foul just 17 seconds in, making both free throws. Sasha Weber would, however, hit a three to put the Aggies back ahead again by eight, 42-34, at 18:13.

Sylvia Shephard (Alta Loma, Calif.) hit a three just 14 seconds later to cut into the NMSU lead and spark a 9-3 run for the Redhawks as they trailed by just two, 45-43, at 16:07.

Ross brought the Redhawks within one on a jumper but a pair of three’s by Weber and Williamson would give the Aggies a five point advantage, 52-47, once again with just under 13 minutes remaining.

Seattle U would take the lead on a jumper by Stoffel bookended by a pair of Sowell layups, 55-54, with just under 10 minutes remaining. The lead would then change hands seven different times over the next two and a half minutes as New Mexico State regained the lead, 63-62, for good at 7:26.

The Aggies would lead by as many as six, 73-67, including at 5:13 when Williamson made all three free throws after she was fouled shooting a three. They would extend the lead to seven, 79-72, on a layup by Brianna Freeman. Despite a layup and pair of free throws by Montgomery, the Redhawks were forced to foul and the Aggies made their free throws down the stretch.

Masha Shtikel (Shoreline, Wash.) hit a three with 19 seconds remaining to bring the Redhawks within four and Montgomery would add a layup, but it was too little too late as Williamson went 3-for-4 at the line and NM State came away with the victory.

Sowell led the Redhawks with her eighth double-double of the season, recording 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Shephard earned her fifth such feat of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Ross (11 points) and Montgomery (10 points) also added double scoring figures for SU.  Clark scored a career high 14 points, hitting a career high four three-pointers. Williamson led all players with 36 points.

Seattle U led from the field, shooting 31-for-68 (45.6 percent) to New Mexico State’s 39 percent (23-for-59), but NMSU led from the free-throw line. The Aggies also led from behind the three-point line, shooting 11-for-25 (44 percent), a key factor in the victory for a team that ranks 13th in the nation in DI three-point field goals per game.

Seattle U returns home to host Utah Valley on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. and Bakersfield on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m.

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