Dominance down low sparked New Mexico to their first conference win of the season.
UNM scored 40 points in the paint en route to a 75-65 victory over Wyoming in the first conference game in The Pit in front 5,445 fans. Defensively, New Mexico contained the Cowgirls to 28 points from close range.
The Lobos (6-7, 1-1 MW) had five players that scored in the double digits, two of whom — forwards Alexa Chavez and Deeva Vaughn — primarily play in the low post.
“That was a big time performance put up by a lot of people,” head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our group.”
The Lobos had a cold start to begin the first home game in 2014. Redshirt senior guard Sara Halasz managed to erase an early 17-12 deficit with a-big 3 pointer and a tough fast break layup tying the game at 17.
Halasz had her best scoring night since 2010, dropping 18 points and snagging nine boards. The player of the game credited her successful night to team chemistry and distributing the ball well. The reason that the offense clicked so well, she said, came from “really good ball movement, penetration and attacking.”
UNM had a tremendous first half inside the paint, scoring 24 of their 33 points on close-range shots.
New Mexico entered the locker room at halftime carrying the majority of the momentum after sophomore guard Bryce Owen hit a last second 3-pointer as the team trotted up the ramp with a 33-28 lead.
Taking part with her first career start, sophomore walk-on Chavez answered that call with a career-high 11 points.
“She earned that start, she absolutely has,” Sanchez said. “She’ll continue to be in that starting lineup if she continues that.”
Chavez had 11 of the 40 total points that came from under the basket.
“I had to work, the same as I do every night, if not harder tonight,” Chavez said. “Our post game is very strong… it starts with the guards, the passing side.”
UNM built its lead up to 14 points with only 9:09 seconds in the game. However, the Lobos had difficulty putting the Cowgirls (10-3, 1-1 MW) away in the second half. Despite only having five turnovers, late foul calls on New Mexico kept Wyoming’s hopes alive. Even with the late foul trouble, the Lobos maintained a strong hold on their double-digit victory.
“The worst thing that you can do with a lead is give teams an opportunity to score with the clock stopped,” Sanchez said. “We’ll have to clean things up defensively, but I am really proud of our group.”
The conference win marks their first home win of the new year and the first home win since Dec. 7.
The Lobos will host San Jose State (6-8, 0-3 MW) on Saturday in another conference game at 2 p.m. at The Pit.