By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team blew a 19-point lead, but prevailed 70-62 over San Diego State on Wednesday (Jan. 16) in the Pit.
The Lobos used a strong first quarter to build a lead a 13-point lead that would reach 16 at the half but had to hold on against a young, talented, scrappy Aztecs team.
Behind the play of Aisia Robertson and Jaisa Nunn, who combined for the first nine points of the game, UNM would hold a 9-2 lead halfway through the first quarter. SDSU (6-9, 1-3 Mountain West) showed it was ready to give the home team a battle early with a couple steals off lazy rebound outlets and in-bounds passes as the Lobos would look to start up the floor.
The Aztecs also showed they were going to go hard after rebounds and loose balls.
Still, New Mexico held a 14-8 lead with less than three minutes left in the quarter, then went on a quick 10-3 run for a 24-11 lead after one quarter of play. The run was again sparked by Robertson with two buckets and a 3-pointer by sophomore Madi Washington off the bench.
Washington would again have a good game as she added three more treys in the second quarter — scoring all 12 of her points in the first half. The Lobos would go 7-of-14 behind the arc in the first half and with a strong defensive effort, and it looked like they were in complete control.
The UNM lead would get up to 33-14, and the rest of the half, the lead would stay about 16 as coach Mike Bradbury went to his bench and used 11 players in the quarter.
The Lobos shot 45 percent the first half compared to SDSU’s 27 percent. The Lobo defense was active and most the time had a hand in the face of the shooter. When SDSU did get an open shot, it was unable to knock it down.
Nike McClure and Robertson blocked a few shots, possibly causing Aztec players to hurry their shots.
The third quarter, which has been good to the Lobos earlier in the year, was not on Wednesday night. The Lobo shooting ran cold as the Aztecs started making their shots. UNM’s intensity seemed to drop off in the third quarter, sometimes playing defense with their arms instead of their feet.
Some sloppy UNM play, combined with the hard playing by the Aztecs, helped SDSU pull within nine points with about four minutes left in the period. Nunn was able to get a couple buckets inside to get the lead back to double digits. Aztec guard Naje Murray and post Zayne Dornstauder continued their aggressive play and kept San Diego State in the game.
The final stanza kept Lobo fans a little nervous. Two more young Aztecs, Sophia Ramos and Tea Adams (a high school teammate of Nunn), asserted themselves a little more on the offensive end and helped bring SDSU within 57-53 early in the fourth quarter. With Everett and Robertson scoring a bucket each, Lobos pushed the lead back to 62-55.
But Murray and Ramos sparked a 7-0 Aztec run to tie the game 62-62. Bradbury called a timeout and switched from man defense to a 2-3 zone. After the switch, Robertson had a steal and a layup. After another defensive stop, a timely 3-pointer by freshman Ahlise Hurst gave the Lobos a six-point lead, and the home team staved off the Aztecs challenge.
The Lobos have had highly ranked recruiting classes the last couple years. Not quite as highly ranked, SDSU has also had a couple good recruiting years. Like the Lobos, the Aztecs also start a couple freshmen, as well as a couple sophomores.
The Aztecs, as they gain experience, could become a contender in the conference. They do have some good young talent and may very well pull some surprises this year.
The Lobos go to 14-2 on the season, 4-1 in conference play. The next game is Saturday in Laramie against the tough Wyoming Cowgirls. Wyoming is 9-4 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Like UNLV, Wyoming plays a physical brand of basketball and joins UNLV as the other conference team the Lobos do not have a win against during Bradbury’s time at UNM. Most of the games have been close with the Lobos unable to get over the hump. Wyoming is tough in Laramie, so the game will be a big challenge for the Lobos.
George Hronich, a longtime fan and close follower of the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, is covering the squad this season for Enchantment Sports. If you have any feedback, tips or story ideas for George, please email him at EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com.