LAS CRUCES, N.M. — UTSA went on a 16-1 run and held New Mexico State without a basket for 11 minutes and 27 seconds en route to a 66-53 victory on Saturday night at the Pan American Center.
Sophomore Ashley Spaletta tied a career high with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting and a 5-of-8 effort from behind the arc to lead the Roadrunners (12-10, 6-5 WAC). The Magnolia, Ark., native scored 14 consecutive points by hitting five of six shots, including four straight 3-pointers, in a three-minute, 15-second span midway through the second half.
She was joined in double figures by senior Cori Cooper, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
UTSA shot 40 percent for the contest, which was its best outing from the field since a Jan. 5 loss to Denver. The Birds held a 20-8 edge in the paint and got 30 points from their bench.
Meanwhile, Stefanie Gilbreath went 10-of-13 from the free throw line and scored 16 points to lead the Aggies (9-12, 3-8 WAC). Sasha Weber added 12 for New Mexico State, which shot just 31.6 percent in the second half and 35.1 percent for the game.
After four quick points for UTSA, Abby Scott hit a 3-pointer and New Mexico State tied the score at six with another triple following a jumper by junior Miki Turner.
That set the stage for a back-and-forth opening frame that featured six ties and four lead changes.
A freebie by sophomore Kamra King regained a slim lead, but it was erased on New Mexico State’s third 3-pointer in as many attempts. The Aggies did not trail again until late in the half.
Chrissy Fletcher’s free throw with 4:07 on the clock gave New Mexico State a 25-22 lead that disappeared following Spaletta’s first triple of the night. The long-ball ignited the decisive run that put UTSA ahead for good.
Sophomore Jenny Menz hit back-to-back 17-foot jumpers and senior Whitney York, who finished with a season-high nine points, converted a steal to an easy layup that forced the Aggies to call timeout. Freshman Akunna Elonu pushed the halftime lead to 33-26 on a jumper with 17 ticks remaining in the frame.
UTSA picked up right where it left off with a 3-pointer and 15-foot jumper by Turner to extend the lead 38-26 in the early minutes of the second half.
The run was aided by a solid defensive effort by the Roadrunners.
UTSA held New Mexico State without a field goal over the final 4:45 of the first half and did not allow another bucket until Gilbreath’s layup with 13:18 to play. The Aggies were limited to just seven points at the free-throw line during the long drought from the field.
Gilbreath’s basket pulled New Mexico State to within 42-34, but its hopes of a comeback were dashed by Spaletta's hot shooting.
She started her string of 14 consecutive points with a jumper that again gave UTSA a double-digit cushion. After a missed jumper, Spaletta connected from downtown four times in as many attempts, which gave the Roadrunners a 56-39 cushion.
York found Cooper under the basket for a layup with 8:24 to play, which gave UTSA its largest lead of the game at 58-39.
Cooper added two more buckets inside, as the Birds cruised to the 13-point triumph.
UTSA will return home to face Louisiana Tech (10-11, 6-4 WAC) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7.