It took a couple of key performances for the New Mexico women’s basketball team to finally put away San Jose State on Saturday.
Senior guard Sara Halasz scored 23 points and grabbed 14 boards for her third career double-double and senior forward Deeva Vaughn recorded 21 points and six rebounds to propel UNM to an 80-68 victory over SJSU at The Pit in front of 6,025 fans.
“It was huge. It was big time,” head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “Deeva and Sarah were seniors and they did a great job.”
Before earning their second Mountain West win of the season, the Lobos (7-7, 2-1 MWC) had to survive a furious rally by the Spartans.
UNM went up 58-40 with 11:29 left after redshirt junior guard Antiesha Brown nailed a 3-pointer. SJSU responded with a 12-0 run to cut the lead to six after Spartan center Riana Byrd hit two free throws with 7:33 remaining.
“They are a scrappy team,” Halasz said. “They play well and that’s their offense. They want to run and gun with transition offense. Sometimes they took it to us.”
The Spartans continued keep the difference under double digits thanks to some sloppy turnovers by the Lobos, but Vaughn had a critical run of eight points to stave off SJSU. A Vaughn layup capped her own run for a 70-60 lead with 3:50 remaining.
Vaughn said she was shocked that the Spartans allowed her to get those open shots.
“If anyone saw my face on that last one I was like ‘Hey,’” she said. “My first thing is to be a threat first and just give an opportunity to my teammates, but if they leave me open I need to score.”
SJSU managed to come within six points again with less than two minutes remaining, but UNM iced the game with several free throws for the 80-68 win.
Halasz didn’t practice for two days prior to Saturday’s game because Sanchez wants to keep her legs fresh.
“Sara is a veteran. She’s a six-year senior and she’s about 30 years old now … When you have a healthy Sarah that’s what you get,” Sanchez said.
Freshman forward Kianna Keller recorded her first career double-double with 10 points and 10 boards. Brown also reached the double digit mark with 19 points on six 6 of 12 shooting.
The Spartans (6-9, 0-4 MW) had three players score 15 points in guard Classye James, guard Ta’Rea Cunnigan, and guard Jasmine Smith. Byrd had 12 points.
UNM shot 44.3 percent for the game while SJSU hit 39.7 percent of its shots.