By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
A sluggish looking UNM Lobo women’s basketball team held off a late rally by the Nevada Wolfpack for a 66-64 win and 2-0 start in the Mountain West Conference.
The Lobos scored the first six points of the game, then got sloppy with the ball.
Eight turnovers in the first period and cold shooting by both teams led to a low scoring quarter with Nevada leading 11-9.
The Lobos started the second quarter with Jaedyn de la Cerda and Jayla Everett hitting threes to help the Lobos build a 17-13 lead. But uncharacteristic play by UNM complete with multiple turnovers and missed shots plagued New Mexico, as they allowed Nevada to go on a 6-0 run and take a 19-17 lead.
Frosh Shai McGruder came off the bench and sparked the Lobos on a 10-0 run.
Prior to tonight’s contest, Lobo coach Mike Bradbury commented that he did not know if this would be a game McGruder would play much due to the physical play of Nevada’s inside players. However, foul trouble for Lobo starting senior post players Jaisa Nunn and Nike McClure forced Bradbury to play McGruder, and she took full advantage of her opportunity finishing the evening with nine points, four rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes for the game.
The first half ended with the Lobos holding a 30-22 halftime lead.
The third quarter has been a good period for the Lobos this year, but not today. The third started out looking like a replay of the first quarter with more uncharacteristic bad passes and missed shots at the rim. Nunn and McClure both picked up their third fouls of the game and had to sit for several minutes.
During the third period, New Mexico was 6-18 from the field and only 5-12 from the charity stripe while Nevada went 9-13 to tie the Lobos at 44 late in the third on a bank in 3-pointer by Nevada’s Mikayla Christian. Nunn picked up her fourth foul and McGruder came back in the game as she and Jayla Everett scored in the last 40 seconds of the period to give the Lobos a four-point lead going into the final stanza.
Strong Lobo defense to start the fourth quarter with a McGruder basket, layup by sophomore Madi Washington, and Everett three capped an 11-0 run to give the Lobos a 55-44 lead with seven minutes left in the game. The Lobos looked like they were ready to cruise to another victory.
Pesky Nevada wasn’t going to go away as McClure picked up her fourth foul and joined Nunn on the bench. With senior post players out with foul trouble and UNM outsized in the paint. Aisia Robertson took control hitting a pair of layups and clutch three to keep the Lobo lead at 10.
Nevada kept battling, and senior Terae Briggs, who scored 54 points the previous two games, and Jade Redmon hit big shots to get the Wolfpack within three.
With the Lobos clinging to a two-point lead, Robertson drove in and had a shot blocked. In frustration, she committed a flagrant foul and Nevada got two free throws and the ball.
The extra possession and a score tied the game at 64 with about a minute and a half left; momentum was on Nevada’s side.
But once again, UNM freshman McGruder stepped up with a steal and an assist to Robertson, who converted the layup with a minute left. The Lobo defense stiffened, denying any further Wolfpack scoring and holding on for the 66-64 win.
Nevada plays physical defense, making the Lobos look extremely sluggish. However, the Lobo defense again was once again solid for Bradbury’s Lobos, and with the senior posts struggling, McGruder stepped up and continues to impress and improve.
Fellow freshman Everett finished with 16 points, six assists and four rebounds, and Aussie Ahlise Hurst had 10 points and a couple more steals.
Junior guard Robertson put things on her shoulders again when the team was struggling, led the team with 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five assists. In one of her best games taking care of the ball, she only committed two turnovers.
The 12-1 UNM team goes on the road Wednesday night as the UNLV Lady Rebs at the Thomas & Mack. A 2 p.m. game Saturday vs. Colorado State in Dreamstyle Arena (the Hometown Heroes game) follows. Military and first responders can go to the ticket office and get two free tickets while supplies last. It is also team day for youth teams. There will be a free pregame clinic for those 13 and under.