Despite late turnovers and poor free throw shooting, the New Mexico women’s basketball team finally got a close game to end in its favor.
UNM (9-15, 4-9 Mountain West) ended a three-game losing streak, beating the UNLV Lady Rebels 65-58 Wednesday night at The Pit.
Head coach Yvonne Sanchez said that she was very pleased with her team’s ability to play strong. She said that the “Play 4 Kay” game was not just about coming out and playing to end a losing streak, it was for something much more then themselves.
“This game was much more than for a win or loss,” Sanchez said. “You spoke for the people that couldn’t necessarily speak for themselves… You made them proud because they cheered you on strong.”
In the first half, the Lobos couldn’t seem to get a handle on the ball, turning the ball over 15 times.
“I thought we played well in the first half, we just had 15 turnovers,” Sanchez said. “Fifteen turnovers against a team that didn’t press us at all is just way too many.”
The Lobos did not let their struggle with ball security keep them out of contention. UNM only committed five fouls, not allowing the Rebels to shoot a single free throw in the first half.
UNM headed into the locker room only trailing by three points because they were able to outrebound UNLV (10-15, 7-6 MW) while playing solid defense.
The Lobos came down the ramp with an added spark as they started the second half with a 9-2 run, forcing the Lady Rebels to take an early timeout, which is exactly what Sanchez said she had envisioned.
“I really like how they started the second half,” Sanchez said. “They picked up their intensity on both sides of the floor.”
Guard Antiesha Brown said that she took advantage of every opportunity, scoring 16 of her 18 points in the second half, the team-high.
“We all felt that we deserved this one,” she said. “This is the best time that we have all stayed together as one.”
The Lobos did not have sophomore forward Khadijah Shumpert in the previous game because of a concussion she suffered the game prior.
Shumpert made her presence felt last night, finishing the game with her second career double-double, racking up 13 points and 14 rebounds.
“We’ve had so many nail biters in a row and then we don’t pull through in the end,” Shumpert said. “This time we finally did and I think that we are on the right track. This is the game to get us started.”
Despite good shooting efforts by both Brown and Shumpert, UNM struggled down the stretch. Even though the Lobos cut their turnovers down to nine in the second half, three of those turnovers came on possessions with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
In addition to rough ball handling, the Lobos couldn’t take advantage of the free throw opportunities that would have sealed the game long before the final minute of the game.