A 14-point deficit midway through the second half proved to be too big a whole for the New Mexico women to overcome.
Down 61-49, the Lobos outscored Fresno State by 12 points to force a 73-all tie, but guard Bree Farley scored a game-winning layup with 2 seconds left for a 75-73 Bulldog victory Saturday afternoon at The Pit.
“Any loss is tough, whether it’s by two points or 20 points,” UNM guard Bryce Owens said. “We’re a team that doesn’t like losing at all, and I don’t know what to say about this one, honestly. It’s really disappointing, and I wish I could go back about 10 minutes ago and change some things.”
UNM carried a four-point edge, 36-32, heading into the locker room for halftime. After the break, Fresno State opened the half with a 15-4 run to build a 47-40 lead. After some basket-for-basket play the Bulldogs used another big run, this time a 10-2 spurt, to extend the margin to 61-49, the widest of the game.
From there UNM mounted its comeback. The Lobos had rallies of 11-2 and 12-2 to eventually knot the game at 71. Owens, who did not score in the first half, factored heavily into the comeback by dropping 11 points, including eight in the final four minutes. She also sank the jump shot that tied the game at 73 with 20 seconds remaining.
Fresno State (11-6, 5-1 MW) made 64 percent from the field (16 of 25) in the latter 20 minutes after shooting 33.3 percent in the first half (10 of 30).
“The first four minutes, you don’t want to start off that way,” UNM coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “We did so much to build that (first-half) lead and worked hard and worked together, then we just had some mental breakdowns, some toughness breakdowns.”
Turnovers and fouls plagued UNM. Fresno State turned 19 Lobo turnovers into 22 points and converted 18 UNM fouls into 17 successful free throws. The Bulldogs missed only three foul shots.
Forward Deeva Vaughn, who was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and 2-for-2 on foul shots in the first half, picked up three fouls in the opening 20 minutes and a fourth midway through the fourth half. She did not take a shot in the second half, finishing with eight points.
Vaughn made her way back into the starting lineup after a concussion forced her to miss five games then playing the next four off the bench. She did record four assists and six rebounds.
“I don’t think Deeva ever gets tentative. I just didn’t think she got an opportunity,” Sanchez said. “They played her pretty well, and they’ve seen film on it so they did a nice job. She did a nice job finding the low, whether it was Kianna (Keller) or Khadijah (Shumpert), the opposite guard getting in for baseline drives. She just played it smart.”
The Lobos placed four in double-digit scoring: guard Sara Halasz with 15, guard Antiesha Brown with 14, forward Khadijah Shumpert with 13 and Owens with 11.
The game’s top scoring output came from an unlikely player. Fresno State guard Alex Furr, who averaged 2.5 points per game heading into Saturday’s contest, dropped 22 points on UNM (7-9, 2-3 MW). Coming off the bench she converted six of her eight shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
“We don’t downplay anybody. Whether they’ve been struggling the last few games or they’ve been very strong, we don’t downplay anybody,” Owens said. “We knew she was a great shooter, a great threat. I guess we took off some plays on her, but she definitely made us pay for that.”
Furr accounted for 78.5 percent of Fresno State’s bench 28 points. Starters Bree Farley, a guard, and Alex Sheedy, a forward, joined Furr in double figures with 16 points apiece for Fresno State, while guard Taylor Thompson had 10.
UNM finished 50.8 percent of its field goals (30 of 59) but made only one of its six 3-point attempts. They shot 12 of 17 from the foul line.
“It comes down to that mental toughness,” Halasz said. “Those first four minutes killed us coming out of the second half, and we just have to regroup and refocus and know it’s a 40-minute game. We’ve got to come out ready to play from the jump, whether it’s first half or the second half.”