By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team survived a comeback and 23 turnovers to break coach Mike Bradbury’s losing streak to UNLV with a 80-77 victory.
The Lobos first five minutes was horrible, and they seemed to recover with strong ten minutes. However, it was a short lived recovery as the finish the half was nightmarish.
Meanwhile, UNLV started hot, making four of their first five shots to take an early 9-2 lead.
Lobo frosh Jayla Everett hit a pair of treys and Aisia Robertson hit a couple jumpers to get the Lobo offense going and the Lobos had a 19-13 lead at the end of one. The Lobo defense heated up as well forcing UNLV into six turnovers in the quarter.
Everett continued her hot three point shooting in the second quarter, one from the bank and the other five feet behind the three point line. The Lobo lead would grow to twelve four minutes into the period.
Playing hard defense, the Lobos had multiple chances to widen the lead, but they stopped taking care of the ball on offense; committing ten turnovers in the quarter. Most of these turnovers were the unforced variety with some careless passing as the entire team seemed to have lost their focus.
With three minutes left in the half, the Lobos still held a 30-18 lead but the turnovers combined with senior post players Jaisa Nunn and Nike McClure getting in foul trouble helped UNLV finish the half on a 9-1 run to close the gap to 31-27 at the buzzer.
Nunn picked up her second foul with six minutes left until halftime and would sit until the start of the second half. McClure was whistled for her third foul with two minutes left in the half. Eight of UNLV’s 14 second quarter points came from the foul stripe, while the Lobos would only go 4-8 from the line.
The Rebels came out of the locker room and went to work, cutting the Lobo lead to one before the Lobos found their offense.
A refocused UNM team responded with a 19-5 run to take a fifteen point lead at 52-37.
UNLV was hampered as senior point guard Nikki Wheatley, who has had some of her best games against the Lobos, picked up her third foul and sat out the last seven minutes of the third.
Nunn scored the first eight points for the Lobos in the third period to lead the Lobo offensive spurt, but two quick fouls sent her to the bench with four fouls.
Sophomore Antonia Anderson came into the game scoring five points to help keep the Lobos up by double digits.
The Lobo defense stayed stout, forcing seven UNLV turnovers and once againt the Lobos were in position to run away with this game.
The fourth quarter started with both teams continuing to turn the ball over. Wheatley, who finished with seventeen points, would get the Rebel offense going with a three point play and senior post Katie Powell started heating up hitting a three point shot.
The Lobo lead was cut to five. Nunn came back into the game and hit a couple shots to help get the Lobo lead back to eight at 64-56. Wheatley picked up her fourth foul and would eventually foul out on a call the referees deemed intentional, giving the Lobos two free throws and the ball.
Everett made one of the two free throws, and Albuquerque native and Cibola High graduate Kavionnia Brown would replace Whaetley and would play well down the stretch for UNLV.
With Wheatley out and Lobo post players in foul trouble, the Rebels looked to Powell for more scoring. She responded to the challenge scoring twenty in the second.
UNLV went to a 2-3 zone with big, lengthy players in the paint. The switch on defense really threw the Lobos off their offensive game, while Powell was hitting baseline jumpers and a couple threes. UNM maintained a 66-58 lead with about four minutes left.
UNLV then scored the next eight to tie the game with a minute left.
As the game was winding down, the Lobos got a stop and a rebound and Nunn was fouled. Nunn has been a clutch free trow shooter for the Lobos late in games, it looked like UNM would have the game won in regulation.
Nunn, to everyone’s surprise, missed both free throws. Setting the stage for Powell to bank a long three pointer with four seconds left in the game to tie it up.
The Lobos had one last shot in regulation, but a jumper in the lane by Robertson rolled off the rim to send the game to overtime.
Overtime started with the teams trading turnovers and buckets to start the overtime.
A Nunn layup and two clutch free throws by Robertson, who was previously 1-5 in the game from the stripe gave the Lobos a 77-74 lead with less than a minute to play.
UNLV responded with a three point shot by Brown with 30 seconds left.
The Lobos weren’t to be denied however, with five seconds left, Robertson would get her ninth assist finding Nunn for a lay up. Jaisa was fouled and converted the three point play. Good defense by Robertson forcing Powell to put the ball on the floor ran out the clock and the Lobos survived.
Nunn led the Lobos with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Everett scored 23 and Robertson 14. Robertson also had 6 rebounds and 9 assists, and 10 turnovers.
Powell led UNLV with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Wheatley finished with 17.
UNM travels to Logan Saturday to take on the Utah St. Aggies, who are in a three way tie with UNM and Fresno St. for 2nd in league standings behind 6-0 Boise St. Another important game as the winner will stay on Boise St.’s heels.
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.