The night was supposed to be a celebration for the individual accomplishments of junior guard Rachel Espinoza.
Espinoza was 10 points away from scoring 1,000 career points and the ThunderWolves (14-7, 10-3 RMAC) were playing the last seed in the RMAC Western Division, Western New Mexico University (4-14, 4-8).
The contest turned into an overtime affair as the Mustangs pushed the Pack to the limit, but CSU-Pueblo pulled out an 88-78 win.
“Give them credit, they kept attacking and made some big shots,” said Coach Kip Drown.
The ThunderWolves were constantly pressured by the Mustangs’ press defense all game, but still managed to limit their turnovers to nine for the game. CSU-Pueblo’s solid first half shooting helped them jump out to a 41-27 halftime lead.
“They haven’t won a game all year that they scored less than 70. Our goal was to try and keep them in the 50’s, low 60’s,” said Coach Drown.
The defense the Pack played in the first half held the Mustangs to only one free throw and zero 3-point field goals diminished in the second half. Western New Mexico found its stroke shooting 48.6 percent and erupting for 46 second half points.
The game went down to the end in regulation as Western New Mexico senior forward Audra Major was able to slip through the ThunderWolves’ defense to score and tie the game 73-73 to force overtime.
In the overtime period the Mustangs were able to match the Pack, tying the score at 77 with 2:59 remaining in the period before the ThunderWolves were able to pull away. A huge 3-point field goal by Espinoza helped put the Pack in front for good as they pulled away for the victory.
“We just wanted to get the ball to the rim and attack,” said junior forward Amanda Bartlett
Major finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and sophomore guard Shatwa Morris, who scored 19 points, paced the Mustangs’ offensive attack throughout the game.
But the balanced attack by the Pack was too much for the Mustangs as all five ThunderWolves starters scored in double digits. Espinoza led the way with 20 points followed by 14 from freshmen forward Katrina Selsor. The ThunderWolves also got 21 points from the bench.
With the win the night turned to the individual accomplishment of Rachel Espinoza, who scored her 1,000th career point on the night. Espinoza is only the sixth ThunderWolve to reach 1,000 career points, doing it in just three seasons and is currently 13th on the list of all-time leading scorers.
After the game Espinoza was humble, but focused on the bigger picture, which was getting the win and credited her teammates for much of her success.
“I really want to be focused on winning the game, but if scoring points helps us win the game, that’s what were going to do,” said Espinoza.
Espinoza said she never imagined scoring that many points, but on her list of accomplishments it may rank as number one now, but something else may rank as one in a few years.
“That’s a pretty big one (scoring 1,000 points) but it’s up there. My next accomplishment will be graduating,” Espinoza said.