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This week in the WAC: New Mexico State looks to extend 3-game winning streak, Seattle U nabs first victory

Tied for first with NM State, UMKC looks to extend its own winning streak, California Baptist is surging after a record-breaking win and history was made during Seattle U’s triumph Thursday night.

New Mexico State’s second-leading scorer Gia Pack had 10 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in the Aggies’ Jan. 19 win over Utah Valley.
Courtesy of New Mexico State Aggies Women’s Basketball

It was a long time coming, but Seattle U beat Chicago State on Thursday night for its very first win of the season. And, boy, did they ever show that they’ve been ready to dominate all season, given the right opportunity.

Though the Redhawks were the last team in the NCAA to win their first game, their play certainly didn’t reflect their previous string of woes. After opening the first quarter on a 27-0 run, a school NCAA Division I record (Seattle U temporarily left Division I for financial reasons from 1980 to 2012), they coasted the rest of the game, picking up season highs in points, made and attempted free throws, assists and shooting percentage.

All the while, freshman guard Courtney Murphy was having a record-setting night of her own, walking away with 33 points — another Division I school record — and leading the Redhawks in scoring. In fact, all ten players who saw action for Seattle U scored, with four entering double figures.

Head coach Suzy Barcomb praised the fast start and the “total team effort” that helped the Redhawks to the victory, but they’ll need to keep up that momentum in order to fare well in today’s game against UMKC. The Roos similarly thrashed Chicago State in record-breaking fashion on Jan. 5 to open conference play.

Checking in with the top of the table

It’s an early tie for first place, as defending regular-season champion New Mexico State and UMKC take identical 4-1 records into their weekend games. The Aggies are on a three-game winning streak that began after their close loss to Grand Canyon, while the Roos’ two-game winning streak started following their loss to CSU Bakersfield.

The top two teams feature the top two scorers in the conference, with UMKC junior guard Ericka Mattingly and New Mexico State senior guard Brooke Salas averaging 19.4 and 18.6 points per game, respectively. Salas’ 11.1 rebounds per game also make her just one of two players in the Western Athletic Conference — the other being California Baptist junior forward Britney Thomas — who are averaging a double-double on the season. Meanwhile, Mattingly also leads the conference in assists per game, steals per game and free throw percentage.

California Baptist surges ahead

The only other team on a three-game winning streak, the Lancers lead the WAC — in some cases by wide margins — in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage defense, rebounds, assists, and three-pointers. Looking at dominance like that, it’s hard to believe that Cal Baptist began WAC play on a three-game losing streak, dropping close games to New Mexico State, UT Rio Grande Valley and UMKC.

But the Lancers’ saving grace — and another handful of records by a WAC team this season — came in the form of a Jan. 17 non-conference meeting with Westcliff, an unaffiliated team playing in its inaugural season with just seven players. Sandwiched between two conference victories, Cal Baptist set a WAC points record (and another for margin of victory) as they beat Westcliff 133-43. Their 20 made threes and 51 made field goals were also WAC records.

The Lancers have the opportunity to reach .500 in conference play and make a run for the top half of the table as they host Grand Canyon this afternoon.

WAC games of the week

UMKC Roos (10-8, 4-1) at Seattle U Redhawks (1-18, 1-5)

When: Saturday, Jan. 26, at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Redhawk Center, Seattle, WA

How to watch: WAC Digital Network

Notes: Can the Redhawks find it in them to knock off a team they probably shouldn’t? The Roos are good, but if Seattle U can muster the same energy it had against Chicago State, this one could already be an upset in the making. Either way, the Redhawks have been playing solidly enough in conference play that any effort will probably only help them out, team chemistry-wise, down the line.

Utah Valley Wolverines (10-9, 4-2) at California Baptist Lancers (9-9, 2-3)

When: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: CBU Events Center, Riverside, CA

How to watch: WAC Digital Network

Notes: The Lancers play another team at the bottom of the table, Grand Canyon, over the weekend, which should prepare them for this meeting with third-place Utah Valley. Sweeping their next two games would not only thrust them above .500, but also put them right in the thick of the race for first place.

New Mexico State Aggies (12-6, 4-1) vs. UMKC Roos (10-8, 4-1)

When: Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, MO

How to watch: WAC Digital Network

Notes: If both teams win their Saturday games, this game will be a battle for first place in the WAC. Even if they’re not both 5-1 by Thursday, the potential is strong that this could be a preview of a future WAC Tournament meeting — perhaps the championship game.

Elsewhere in the WAC:

  • New Mexico State senior guard Brooke Salas was named WAC Player of the Week for the third time this season thanks to two double-doubles – 21 points, 11 rebounds and 15 points, 18 rebounds — to lead the Aggies to wins over Seattle U and Utah Valley.
  • Thanks to the WAC’s nine-team setup, CSU Bakersfield — which played its last game on Thursday — has a nine-day break between games this week. The Roadrunners play next on Saturday, Feb. 2, against Grand Canyon.

Full WAC schedule and results