SDSU defense delivers rally past New Mexico, fast starts on offense wipe out Wyoming

Avinger’s 21 points key comeback in front of the largest crowd of the season at Viejas Arena, then Aztecs snap multi-season losing streak at Wyoming.

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Petrina Tran

Sophomore Asia Avinger eyes her defensive assignment in a game versus Sacramento State on Dec. 17, 2022.

by Eric Evelhoch, Staff Writer

Faced with a heavy rain from the Mountain West’s top three-point shooting team, the San Diego State women’s basketball determination on defense was even stronger.

The Aztecs rallied from a 13-point second half deficit to upend the New Mexico Lobos 65-61 before the largest home crowd of the season on Thursday afternoon at Viejas Arena.

Sophomore guard Asia Avinger scored 14 of her game-high 21 points, while the SDSU defense forced 11 turnovers and shut down the opposing shooters in the second half.

“We just had to look to each other and trust in one another,” Avinger said. “We changed the game plan, and everyone was really gritty about it and that’s what got us the win.”

San Diego State spent much of the game chasing, as New Mexico knocked down 11 shots from beyond the arc. The Lobos had already made eight three-pointers when Avinger netted the Aztecs’ first triple of the game at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter.

Trailing by nine at halftime, San Diego State switched up their defensive scheme. It limited the Lobos to one make over their last nine shots and a scoreless last 4:25 of the third quarter. Then in the fourth, the visitors made one of their last six and did not score in the final 4:02.

“I was really impressed with their focus,” head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said. “They all locked in and helped take away some of those easy looks they were getting in the first half.”

In addition to leading the team in scoring for the third time in conference play, Avinger also recorded a game-high four steals and tied senior guard Abby Prohaska with an Aztec-best four assists.

“I’m not necessarily looking for the shots for me, I’m just looking to get my teammates involved, but if I have an open shot I’m going to take it,” Avinger said.

Senior guard Sophia Ramos added 15 points on a tough shooting afternoon but made a key three-pointer to tie the game at 59-59 in the fourth quarter. Off the bench, senior guard Mercedes Staples played 25 minutes in her second game back from injury with five points and a game-best +16 scoring differential while on the floor.

“We’re at our best when we’re able to get stops and get out in transition, I think that fueled us in the second half,” Terry-Hutson said.

The official attendance of 4,150 in the stands played a role too, as the field trip day crowd was the soundtrack to the comeback.

“The energy was crazy,” Avinger said. “It added to the energy on the court and encouraged us the most.”

The last time San Diego State rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 20 minutes was on March 11, 2019 against New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinal.

On Saturday, the Aztecs used fast starts in both the first and third quarters to outpace the Wyoming Cowgirls in a 73-66 win at Arena-Auditorium.

Senior Yummy Morris scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, while Avinger’s 13 points led SDSU (16-5, 6-2) in scoring. Ramos, Staples and junior Kim Villalobos also notched ten points apiece.

It was the first win for San Diego State in Laramie since the 2015-16 season, snapping a seven-game slide at 7,220 feet.

The Aztecs return to the Mesa to host Fresno State at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26 at Viejas Arena.

“The resiliency, the mental toughness that this team is showing is really impressive,” Terry-Hutson said.