FEATURE PHOTO: New Mexico freshman Aisia Robertson (15) goes to the basket on Wednesday night during the Lobos’ 69-51 win against UTEP in the Pit. (Gary Stepic/Enchantment Sports)
By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
After sleepwalking through the first quarter, the UNM Lobo women’s basketball team woke up for a couple good spurts to win 69-51 in front of about 4,000 fans on Wednesday night (Dec. 5) in the Pit.
The Lobos (6-1) started the game flat, while UTEP (2-6) started out hot and raced to a 15-2 lead. Toward the end of the 1st quarter the Lobos showed a little life on defense and cut the lead to 19-10.
After a slow second quarter start, allowing UTEP to lead 23-13, the Lobos started coming back after coach Mike Bradbury subbed in a few of his freshmen. That provided a big spark.
Brea Matthews and Shai McGruder helped pick up the defensive intensity and Aisia Robertson started driving to the basket and scoring. A 14-0 run put the Lobos up 27-23. The lead was 31-27 at the half.
The third quarter continued to seem a little lackadaisical and low scoring. UTEP kept within three-to-four points until the Lobos went on a 9-2 run to take a 10-point lead into the final stanza.
Aisia Robertson again was the offensive spark in the third, as other Lobos were not having good shooting nights. Things started coming together for the Lobos in the fourth quarter. More energy on the defensive end led to a few fast break layups and the Lobos built a 20-point lead.
Antonia Anderson made some plays in the paint that opened things up a little more for Jaisa Nunn inside. A couple of nice drives by impressive freshman Jayla Everett and a trey by Aussie freshman Ahlise Hurst sealed the game for the hometown team.
After winning conference player of the week, the third consecutive week a Lobo took the honor, Hurst had a rough shooting night going 3-for-15. A few of the misses were good looks that rimmed out.
Jayla Everett continues to dazzle the crowd with her all-around game; very smooth player. Freshman post Shai McGruder is a spark-plug off the bench with her energy and quickness. In her nine minutes, she had five rebounds and three steals and helped ignite the 14-0 run. Sophomore Antonia Anderson had another solid performance off the bench with five points, five rebounds and solid defense.
With the cold first half shooting, the Lobos did not have as many assists as usual, with only 12 on the night. Robertson, who came into the game averaging over 10 assists a game, did have six of those. She may have very well had another double-digit assist night with better shooting. Robertson also led the team in scoring with 20. The downside of her game tonight was eight turnovers. Two were charges where she barreled inside a little out of control.
Teams are already looking to be defended Aisia similarly to how Cherise Beynon was defended on her drives at times last year; when getting into the paint crowd her and try to force a turnover, bad shot, or pick up a charge. There are times when she does just stop and take the short pull up jumper, and she has been effective with it.
Although not pretty at times and not the best this team has played, the Lobos still got the win and were able to learn some things at the same time. On postgame, Bradbury was not happy with the execution and energy; also gave some credit to UTEP’s style of play for wanting to slow the Lobos down.
Sophomore guard Madi Washington was not in uniform tonight. The coach said she is going thru concussion protocol after bumping heads with a teammate during practice this week. The hope is she will be available for the NMSU rematch in Las Cruces on December 15th.
The Lobos next game is in Flagstaff on Saturday against Northern Arizona. NAU has played and dropped two games to Mountain West teams Fresno State and Colorado State and has a 4-3 record.