On Monday night at the Pit with all 4,169 fans yelling in unison, “Everyone’s a Lobo,” the New Mexico women’s basketball team pulled off an improbable upset over the nationally-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles.
Junior forward Jaisa Nunn — unquestionably the hero of the night — scored on a layup, drawing a foul in the process and made the subsequent free throw to elevate the Lobos to a huge win over the No. 16 team in the country, as the hometown team won in an 88-87 nail-biter.
“Can’t say enough about and can’t say enough times that we have the absolute best fans in America,” Lobo head coach Mike Bradbury said immediately after his team’s win. “It says 4,169...4,200 — it felt like 42,000. That place was loud, and it made a huge, huge difference.”
Nunn, in her record-breaking performance, shot a smooth 14-of-15 from the field and made 11 of her 12 free throw attempts. She had 39 points. Her big night impressed Bradbury, who said that was one of the best performances he’s ever seen.
“I’ll tell you what, I was telling her that’s as good a single game performance (since) I’ve coached (at New Mexico),” he said. “I had no idea she had 39 (points) and 13 (rebounds), but thank goodness it wasn’t 37 and 13 or it wouldn’t have been enough. Jaisa was unbelievable.”
Senior guard Cherise Beynon goes for a jump to score on Nov. 13, 2017 at the Dreamstyle Arena. UNM won against No. 16 Marquette 88-87.
UNM Women's basketball team celebrates after a win against Marquette University on Nov. 13, 2017 at Dreamstyle Arena. The Lobos won 88-87.
The Lobos’ (2-0) win over the Golden Eagles (0-1) marks the program’s first win over a ranked opponent at the Pit since defeating Southern Methodist University in March of 2010. It’s also the team’s first win over a top-20 opponent since defeating then-No. 16 Brigham Young in 2006.
But the win wouldn’t have mattered without Nunn, who set a new program record for points scored in a game. It surpassed the old mark by four points set by former Lobo Yvonne McKinnon, who scored 35 against Adams State in February of 1982.
The junior post player also added 13 rebounds to her stat line, ultimately giving her a double-double — the only player on either team to do so.
“I’m feeling pretty great,” said Nunn, who said shortly after that it was the only thing she could say about beating a ranked team and setting a new school record.
As great as Nunn was on Monday night, the Lobos’ win was no easy task. Instead, New Mexico struggled early on, especially in the first half.
Marquette, in the first quarter, got out to a 9-0 run at the beginning of the game, but New Mexico eased that lead by scoring the next five points. But it was none other than Nunn who kept the Lobos in the game in the first, as she had 10 of the team’s 23 points in the frame.
Senior guard Tesha Buck, who in the closing seconds of the quarter seemed to forget about the shot clock, ended the quarter by making an unbalanced 3-pointer, to shorten the Golden Eagles’ lead to only six points entering the second quarter.
Nunn scored the first two points of the second, on two made free throws, but shortly after Marquette went on a 7-0 run to go up 36-26. With under three minutes before halftime, though, the New Mexico kept fighting. By halftime, the Lobos shortened Marquette’s lead to four points, 46-42 — the team’s first showing that they can keep up with good, fast-paced teams.
In similar fashion to the start of the second, Nunn opened up the third quarter by scoring a layup to bring the Lobos within two points. Both teams went back and forth, with the lead shrinking and growing, but Marquette still holding the advantage.
With 36 seconds left in the quarter, though, freshman guard N’Dea Flye gave New Mexico its first lead of the game on a layup, to put them up 64-63. Nunn added two more free throws at the end of the quarter, and the Lobos had a three-point advantage over the Golden Eagles entering the fourth quarter.
Beynon made the lead five points when she opened up the final period with a layup, and the Lobos even got the lead up to seven points after freshman guard Jasmine Smith — who finished second in scoring with 17 points — made a layup two minutes in.
“I know this: we wouldn’t have won without her,” Bradbury said of Smith. “She brought some energy, and she rebounded the ball. She scored the ball around the basket.”
The blueprint to beat Marquette probably didn’t involve Smith hoisting up so many shots (she took a team-high of 18 field goal attempts), but Bradbury acknowledged her contribution played a big role in the victory.
“If you would’ve said Jasmine Smith is going to lead your team in field goal attempts against Marquette, I wouldn’t have thought this would be the outcome,” the head coach said.
But with a little over five minutes to play, Marquette’s Lauren Van Kleunen made a 3-pointer to put them back up by one, 75-74. Shortly after, though, Flye scored on a layup to reclaim the lead for New Mexico.
However, after an 85 apiece tie with less than two minutes, it seemed as if the Lobos would be dealt their first loss after a questionable foul call on Smith, which led to two made free throws from Van Kleunen to put Marquette up 87-85 with 13 seconds left.
But Nunn, with just a little over a second left, rebounded a missed Beynon shot and made a layup and a free throw, ultimately giving the Lobos the win.
Aside from Nunn and Smith, Beynon finished with 13 points and seven assists.
As a team, New Mexico shot 50.7 percent from the field and just 20 percent from range, while holding the Golden Eagles to a 43 percent shooting night.
Marquette posed two seemingly unguardable players in Allazia Blockton and Van Kleunen, who put up 20 and 23 points, respectively. Ultimately, though, it didn’t matter, as it was not enough to knock off the Lobos.
Up next for the Lobos is a home game against Northern New Mexico on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.