Lobo senior Jaisa Nunn, the MW player of the year, had 24 points and 19 rebounds, but missed some key shots at the end of regulation as UNM lost 70-61 to San Diego State in overtime at the league tournament in Las Vegas. (Courtesy GoLobos.com)
By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
That didn’t take long.
But it definitely was a long evening for the New Mexico women’s basketball team.
The second-seeded Lobos hit the exit button just about as soon as possible in the Mountain West conference tournament on Monday, losing to seventh-seeded San Diego State 70-61 at in Las Vegas.
Actually, the Lobos’ stay could have even been a bit shorter. At least, Monday’s game went into overtime.
Which it shouldn’t have.
Once again, the Lobos would blew a fourth-quarter, double-digit lead. The loss almost certainly wipes away any hope the Lobos (24-6) had of making the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
New Mexico now waits to see if the WNIT will invite it to the postseason.
San Diego State (14-17) advances into Tuesday’s semifinals (March 12) against third-seeded Wyoming (21-7), which ousted sixth-seeded-seeded Utah State (16-14) on Monday evening. Top-seeded Boise State (26-4) got a scare against eighth-seeded Nevada (12-19), but won 72-67. The Broncos face fourth-seeded Fresno State (19-11) in the other semifinal. Fresno State took a 66-55 win against host and fifth-seeded UNLV (12-18) on Monday.
The Lobos were without starting point guard Aisia Robertson, who was lost for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL that she suffered in the final regular season game against Wyoming last week. The Lobos won that game 57-50 in the Pit.
There were times that Robertson was missed, but the Lobos led for most of regulation. Robertson’s speed and experience may have made a difference. But the same two problems the Lobos have had during the season reared their ugly heads again; poor passing decisions with the lead and giving up offensive rebounds.
The passing miscues allowed SDSU stay in the game, and the Aztecs’ 25 offensive rebounds helped seal UNM’s fate for this game.
New Mexico led 51-41 with less than eight minutes left in the game and 55-49 with 3:30 remaining in a game where field goals were tough to come by.
San Diego State tied the game with 2.6 seconds left, then scored the first 10 points of overtime. Senior Jaisa Nunn, the MW player of the year, had the Lobos’ first and only points of OT on a field goal with 1:09 remaining.
Overall shooting by both teams was very poor. San Diego State shot 32.1 percent (26-of-81) and the Lobos’ 30.3 percent (20-of-66). The difference in shooting was behind the arc. The Aztecs hit their open looks and went 9-of-20 (45.0 percent).
The Lobos were an unwatchable 3-of-29 (10.3 percent) from 3-point range.
The Lobos had a solid 15 offensive boards, but were hammered 59-44 in total rebounds.
With Robertson out, Jaedyn de la Cerda moved into into the starting rotation and the Lobo bench was shortened. Lobo freshmen who have made contributions in key times during the season were not used to give the starters a break, and the Lobos looked tired the last few minutes of regulation and overtime. The Aztecs also have a young team and, like the Lobos, start two freshmen.
SDSU had about twice as many bench minutes as UNM. Neither bench was effective offensively, but reserve Bayle Vanderdoes did snare 14 rebounds.
Senior post Nunn had a big night statistically for UNM with 24 points and 19 rebounds. But she played 39 minutes, which may have tired her out late when she missed a couple shots that she makes a huge percentage of the time. The shots, had they been made, could have won the game in regulation.
Nunn’s inside partner Nike McClure had 11 rebounds, including a couple offensive put-backs in the first half to keep the Lobos ahead. But overall, SDSU’s hustle on the glass gave it the big rebounding advantage as a team.
The Lobos led 32-26 at the half and built their cushion to 13 points in the third quarter. Poor decisions on passing and continuing to put up outside shots on a cold shooting night let SDSU back in the game. The Aztecs gained momentum by hitting 3s and cleaning up the glass as the Lobos were missing their outside shots. This is a game the Lobos should have won with smarter play and maybe a few more bench minutes.
The Lobos last two recruiting classes have garnered national attention, but San Diego State has not been too far behind. The Aztecs started two freshmen: Mallory Adams, who has been a beast on the boards all year, had 16 against UNM while Sophia Ramos scored 20 points, although making just 7-of-23 shots. Sophomore starters Tea Adams and hot 3-point shooting Naje Murray combined for 40 points. With the young players on the two squads, this could become quite a rivalry the next couple years, especially the way the games went this year.
During the regular season, the Lobos won 70-62 in the Pit and the Aztecs won 61-59 in San Diego.
Next up for the Lobos is waiting on the call from the WNIT. With attendance numbers up this year, there should be a good shot at home games for New Mexico.
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.