By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team used its size and talent advantage to put a third digit on the scoreboard in a 110-72 win over the San Jose St. Spartans in Dreamstyle Arena the Pit Wednesday night.
Coming into the last four games of the season with a shot at winning the regular season championship, The UNM Lady Lobos (22-4, 12-3) did not overlook the Spartans (4-22, 3-12) and controlled the game from the middle of the first quarter on. The Lobos went inside early and often to senior post Jaisa Nunn, who scored the firs eight points of the game for New Mexico. Sophomore Jaedyn de la Cerda came off the bench to jump start back court scoring for the Lobos. De la Cerda has been hot from behind the arc the last few games and continued that with three first quarter treys that gave a spark of energy to the home town Lobos. Neither team shot particularly well the first quarter, both in the mid thirties percentage wise, but Jaedyn’s shooting did give the Lobos a 21-12 lead at the end of one. The score was not indicative of the scoring barrage the rest of the game.
The second quarter saw UNM start scorching the nets. The Lobos would shoot 62% in the second period while playing good defense and limiting the Spartans to 33%. Five turnovers, some of them careless in trying to force things, in the quarter kept the Lobos from possibly building a bigger lead than they did. Despite the turnovers, the Lobos scored the first eleven points in the period to build a twenty point lead. Both teams would get hot from three point land and the scoring picked up quickly. UNM maintained it’s lead and went into the locker room with a 48-29 lead. De la Cerda stayed hot from downtown; her and the Spartan’s Megan Anderson were putting on a show with their own three point contest within the game and sophomore Jayla Everett found her shooting touch for the Lobos. With the size advantage, the Lobos also controlled the rebounding allowing them to get out and run.
The second half the Lobos kept control of the game. Going inside again to Nunn, who would score 21 points for the game, the Lobo lead grew to thirty. The ladies have been prone to losing double digit leads in conference, but in this game they kept playing hard and smart and never let SJSU mount any kind of threat. The third quarter the Lobos continued good ball movement getting easy looks inside and going to the free throw line. Building the lead up to thirty, Coach Mike Bradbury began using more of his bench and continued getting solid play from freshmen Shai McGruder and Brea Matthews. Defensively there were a few lapses by the Lobos with different line ups, which allowed San Jose St. to get some better looks and they started knocking down more shots. With the Lobos continuing to shoot over 60%, the Spartans were never able to cut into the Lobo lead and UNM led 77-49 going into the final period.
Both teams had good shooting in a high scoring fourth quarter. Bradbury subbed liberally and some of the bench players were able to receive extended minutes and continued to grow the lead, at times hitting a forty point margin. Some of the freshmen who have not sen a lot of time showed why this was a top thirty rated recruiting class McGruder and Matthews were strong inside scoring and rebounding. Quincy Noble showed her skills on both ends of the court. All but one player on the Lobo roster scored in the game on the way to a school record 110 points. De la Cerda joined a few other Lobos who have scored over thirty points in the game as she poured in 31, including seven three point makes. Everett continued her impressive frosh season with 16 points and 6 assists. The team passing was very good as UNM had 28 assists on the night, that helped by 50% shooting as a team.
Te Lobos are now alone in second place as Wyoming lost to Fresno St. At 12-3 in conference, the Lobos remain one game behind 13-2 Boise St.,who pulled out an overtime win over last place Colorado St. The Lobos travel to Fort Collins Saturday to take on the Rams. Might this game have the look of a trap game? After the Saturday afternoon tilt, UNM travels to Boise to face the first place Broncos Monday night. The Lobos are in a spot to control their own destiny, so they need to come out strong and not look past CSU. With a win over CSU the game Monday would be for first place. Because UNM and Boise St. only play this one time in regular season, it could be a game that decides MWC tourney seeding. The loss at San Diego St. might have hurt the Lobo chances at an at large bid to the NCAA’s. These next three games and winning two in Las Vegas might possibly help UNM stay on the bubble.
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.