4:00 PM ET, January 1, 2006
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Bad back and all, senior Abbie Letz carried No. 16 New Mexico to a win.Letz had career highs with 27 points and 5 steals and added 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season in New Mexico's 55-42 win Sunday over New Mexico State.New Mexico (10-3) beat the Aggies (3-8) for the 20th straight time on the strength of Letz's play at both ends. She also had 2 blocks and hit 10 of 20 shots while the rest of the Lobos were going 9-for-26.Letz's 10 field goals and 20 attempts also were career highs."Man, she's killed me for six games now," said third-year NMSU coach Darin Spence. "I'm ready for her to (graduate). Good players step up."Letz did every time New Mexico needed a basket, a steal or a rebound.With the Aggies' defense shutting down the rest of the Lobos, Letz scored 18 of New Mexico's first 30 points. She played 37 minutes and showed no sign of the bad back she has played through this season."I like to have someone as seasoned as her on the floor," said New Mexico coach Don Flanagan. "I watch her all the time. When she gets knocked down, she needs a couple of teammates to pick her back up because she doesn't get very much strength in that back."This day, it was Letz who did the picking up.Letz grew up in El Paso, Texas, some 45 miles from New Mexico State. Her dad Russell and mother Rhonda both played basketball for the Aggies, but she signed with New Mexico."One of the things about Abbie is she gets up for New Mexico State," Flanagan said.Letz said her career game had less to do with the Aggies and more with how the Lobos have struggled of late -- including an 83-70 loss at home to No. 20 Oklahoma on Friday."I was just tired of playing bad," said Letz, who played 37 minutes.Sherell Neal with 9 points and Jenean Ford and Tristan Baker with 8 each led the Aggies.New Mexico State, which lost to the Lobos 79-77 in triple overtime on Dec. 21, again gave New Mexico all it could handle. The Aggies led 33-28 with 13:40 left. But Letz scored six straight points to give the Lobos their first lead since early in the first half.New Mexico State regained the lead -- its last -- on Monique Bribiescas' off-balance bank shot and a 10-foot jumpshot by Neal. Letz got loose for an open 3-pointer, then added two free throws that gave New Mexico the lead for good at 41-37 with 6:45 left.New Mexico pulled away from there, outscoring the Aggies 10-2 over the final 3:41, with her teammates taking over for Letz. Reserve center Angela Hartsill hit a free throw and a lay-up, Brandi Kimble scored twice inside and Katie Montgomery hit two free throws."In the second half they outplayed us in every phase of the game," Spence said. "Experienced, good programs do that. They know how to do it and have done it before. We're still trying to learn how to do it."The Aggies took a 16-12 lead in the first half with an 11-3 run that included 3-pointers by Cecila Russell-Nava, Baker and Neal. The only points for New Mexico in that stretch was a 3 by Letz.New Mexico State held Dionne Marsh, the Lobos' leading scorer to 4 points, only the second time this season she has not scored in double figures. Montgomery, the Lobos' second leading scorer, had just 4 points, all on free throws.New Mexico State hit 6 3-pointers in the first half, the final one by Jayci Stone just before the buzzer that gave the Aggies a 27-24 lead at the break. New Mexico played tougher defense on the perimeter in the second half and the Aggies went 0-for-6 from behind the arc."We defended quite well in the second half," Flanagan said. "They're difficult to defend. They stay wide, they're spot shooters and they make good cuts and hard screens. They have a number of good shooters."The two teams combined for 39 turnovers, 21 of them by the Aggies.
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