Two years, two conference final appearances for UTRGV women’s basketball. Both years it has faced the New Mexico State University Aggies. The top-seeded Aggies beat UTRGV 80-53 tonight and will be the WAC’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.
With the loss, the Vaqueros will advance to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
The WNIT represents the second straight postseason appearance for the program. Last year, as UT Pan American, Larry Tidwell’s team advanced to the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
The top scorer for the Vaqueros in the final was Anushka Maldonado with 14 points. Hildur Kjartansdóttir grabbed nine boards and scored 10 points.
New Mexico State exploited UTRGV’s defense too often, shooting 48.4 percent through the game. The Aggies also made 11 three-pointers, which was a major factor in building up big leads for most of the contest.
The women’s team entered the tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 2 seed.
UTRGV’s road to the WAC championship was turbulent, with two highly contested games on Wednesday and Friday.
In the semifinal, UTRGV and the No. 3 seed California State Bakersfield Roadrunners battled into two overtimes before the Vaqueros finally triumphed 73-72.
CSU came back from a deficit to force overtime. In the first overtime, the Roadrunners held a lead but UTRGV’s Idil Türk made two free-throws to tie the game at 65-65 forcing a second OT.
Leading the Vaqueros in scoring was Shawnte’ Goff with 24 points. Hildur Kjartansdóttir recorded her third consecutive double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds. It was Rickell Preston, however, who made the game-winning layup with time running down in double overtime. Preston finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
In game one of the Vaqueros run in Las Vegas, they faced the No. 7 seed Chicago State University Cougars. UTRGV was favored heavily facing opponents who only had two wins in conference play. The result was a 60-52 win, but the game was nothing routine.
Chicago State played hard in the WAC quarterfinal. The Cougars even took a three-point, 31-28 lead into the halftime break.
UTRGV let the deficit get all the way to nine points in the second half before staging its come from behind win.
Leading UTRGV in scoring in the first game was Goff, with 22 points. Preston and Kjartansdóttir both added 12 points. They also contributed with steals and rebounds, Preston had seven steals and Kjartansdottir had 16 rebounds.
UTRGV will find out its opponent in the first round of the WNIT Monday. A selection show is held Monday night to determine post season brackets.