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New Mexico State whips Grand Canyon in WAC Tournament final

Updated March 16, 2019 - 10:08 pm

New Mexico State doesn’t know how it will win on a given night. It usually does anyway.

The Aggies are dangerous because the depth and flexibility of their rotation allows for different players to step up every night.

On Saturday night at Orleans Arena against Grand Canyon, it was junior guard Trevelin Queen. He scored a season-high 27 points off the bench to help New Mexico State to an 89-57 win in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game, giving the Aggies an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

“Whoever’s hot, feed that hot hand,” said Queen, the tournament MVP. “That’s just how we play. We’re a very unselfish team. There’s no person that just looks to take over. Whoever has the hot hand, we give it to them.”

Queen’s contributions are just one example of why the Aggies (30-4) claimed their seventh WAC tournament title in eight years and set a program record for wins. They’re deep — 14 players saw the floor during the WAC tournament — and adaptable, able to easily determine who needs the ball on a given night.

Queen made 6 of 11 3s against the Lopes (20-13) after scoring 12 points combined in the first two games of the tournament. Junior forward Ivan Aurrecoechea added 16 points off the bench after scoring two in New Mexico State’s semifinal win over Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Friday.

Those performances — as well as the Aggies’ tournament-record 17 made 3s in 39 attempts — were too much for Grand Canyon to handle. The Lopes lost the WAC title game — and their chance at the first NCAA Tournament berth in school history — to New Mexico State for the second straight season.

“We’re going dancing,” second-year Aggies coach Chris Jans said after his team’s 19th straight victory. “We played some amazing basketball. One of our better games of the year.”

Along with Queen, New Mexico State guard Terrell Brown, Grand Canyon junior guard Carlos Johnson, Texas-Rio Grande Valley senior guard Tyson Smith and Utah Valley senior guard Conner Toolson made the all-tournament team.

The title game was played before an announced crowd of 3,598, the highest total since the 2011 final.


New Mexico State 76, Texas-Rio Grande Valley 73 — Senior guard Brooke Salas grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a tiebreaking layup with 13.9 seconds remaining in double overtime as the top-seeded Aggies (26-6) won their fourth WAC tournament title in five years.

Salas, a two-time WAC player of the year, finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds against the second-seeded Vaqueros (18-14).

The all-tournament team consisted of Salas, teammate Gia Pack (MVP), Texas-Rio Grande Valley senior forward Madison Northcutt, Cal State Bakersfield senior guard Alexxus Gilbert and Kansas City junior guard Ericka Mattingly.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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