By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
It certainly didn’t look like a game for the Mountain West Conference regular season title.
But that’s exactly what it was on Monday night in Boise, Idaho.
In a sloppy, poor-shooting affair, it was the host Broncos being just a touch better on the way to a 70-66 win against New Mexico (23-5, 13-4) to clinch the regular season title and gave Boise State (24-4, 15-2) the No. 1 seed in next week’s league tournament in Las Vegas.
Only the winner of the MWC tournament is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Women’s Tournament, and neither team did much to show they should get an at-large berth if they don’t win the title in Vegas.
It was Senior Night for Boise State.
It was also turnover night for both teams.
The host Broncos helped the Lobos’ cause with 18 turnovers.
The Lobos took it much deeper. They had a shopping 26 turnovers in the biggest game of the women’s MWC season.
The Lobos were 24-of-60 (40.0 percent) from the floor, while BSU was 28-of-74 (37.8 percent).
With first place on the line, the Lobos started off slow offensively with several turnovers. Boise St. was able to take advantage for an early 9-2 lead. The Lobos went on an 8-0 run to take the lead as the Broncos started turning the ball over. Good defense and some bad passing decisions saw the Lobos commit nine first quarter turnovers, the home team turned it over six times. and at the end of the period Boise St. led 18-14.
Good defense and more bad passing was the story of the second quarter as both teams continued to add to the turnover stat. Good close outs and tough defense also led to shooting percentages going down. The Bronco defense was physical inside on senior post Jaisa Nunn and several of Nunn’s shots were rimming out. Normally a good 3-point shooting team, Boise only went 2-14 in the first half behind the arc. Last year in the two games the teams combined for 369 points, so the first half was a complete opposite of season. Would the big game jitters go away in the second half?
Both teams drained 3s to start the third quarter and the shooting looked to be improving for both teams. But the Lobos continued making bad passes turning the ball over to let Boise regain a lead after tying the game at 31. Both teams started heating up from the floor and Boise St. started knocking down the 3-ball. Aisia Robertson and Jayla Everett hit from downtown and at the media time out the scoring had picked up and the Broncos had a 46-41 lead but maintaining a five to eight point lead. Boise St. was taking better care of the ball as they only turned the ball over once while the Lobos turned it over eight more times as the Broncos built a nine point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Two more Lobo turnovers hampered a quick comeback attempt to start the fourth quarter. Robertson started to carry the Lobos and picked up her play, scoring nine of the first eleven New Mexico points in the final period as the Lobos cut the lead to three. The Broncos would hit key threes to build lead back to eight but Robertson continued carrying the team and the Lobos fought back to two at 58-56. But Boise St. would go on another run to get control of the game again. Although the Lobos continued playing hard and cut the lead a couple times to three, the Broncos would answer with a big bucket and keep the lead.
Turnovers were the story as New Mexico finished with 26 turnovers while Boise would only turn the ball over four times in the second half to finished with those 18.
With the loss, the Lobos fell into a tie for second place with Wyoming (20-6, 13-4). The two teams play on Thursday in the Pit to end the regular season.
UNM is having a promotion with $2 bench seats, $2 dollar sodas and popcorn.
Robertson led the Lobos with 23 points, with 15 coming in the fourth quarter. But Robertson, who leads the league in assists, only had one in the game. She had 10 turnovers with several on passes that were bad decisions. She did put the team on her back and almost led a big comeback.
Nunn had a tough luck night with some of her tough contested shots against physical defense rolled out instead of going down. The Lobos leading scorer, Nunn would go 2-10 and finish with eight points and 12 rebounds. After the last couple games with over twenty assists in each, they only had eight tonight. Once again the Lobos lost on the offensive boards, giving up 16 against the Broncos. Lobo coach Mike Bradbury shortened the bench, only playing seven. Antonia Anderson did score 10 points and had five rebounds, but a bench that has been productive throughout the year was not used much. For the Lobos to win the MWC tournament, they need to get good play from the bench as they will need to win three games in three days to make the NCAA tournament. They also need to take better care of the ball and do better on the defensive glass.
Hope to see a big crowd Thursday. Last regular season game in the Pit for Jaisa Nunn, Nike McClure, Emily Lines, and Erica Moore.
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.
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