It wasn’t pretty. And it certainly wasn’t easy.
But the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, with a resurgent second half, pulled out a narrow 72-68 victory over the visiting Nevada Wolf Pack on Saturday afternoon at Dreamstyle Arena.
“Give Nevada a lot of credit,” UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said. “They are, one, very talented and two, extremely well-coached. … That said, I’m very proud of our kids. I thought the last quarter and a half we really competed and found a way to win.”
Nevada, (8-5, 1-1 Mountain West) by the half, had a four point advantage. And nearly halfway through the third quarter, the visiting team had a 12-point lead over the Lobos (14-1, 2-0 Mountain West).
But a string of five 3s, in the last five minutes of the third quarter, helped the Lobos end the frame with a 52-48 lead. In the third quarter alone, senior guards Alex Lapeyrolerie and Tesha Buck each contributed two made 3-pointers, while freshman guard Madi Washington hit the other.
In total, four Lobos scored in double digits, with junior post Jaisa Nunn leading the way with 18 points on a 7-for-12 performance from the field. She also had seven rebounds.
Buck finished with 16 points, and Lapeyrolerie and Washington each had 14 points, though all of Lapeyrolerie’s points came in the second half.
Senior guard Cherise Beynon, who went 3-for-16 from the field and had just eight points, was more potent as a passer, dishing out a game-high nine assists.
From the tip, both teams went back-and-forth. Nunn, who had eight points and only played eight minutes in the first half, scored UNM’s first six points of the game.
But it was senior forward Teige Zeller —a Los Lunas native—who gave the Lobos problems in the first quarter. She scored all eight of her first half points in the frame, mostly from the post.
After one quarter the Lobos still claimed the lead, 17-14, mostly thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Washington and Buck in the last three-and-a-half minutes of the frame.
In the second quarter, things didn’t get any better for the Lobos. Before the first media timeout of the frame, which was nearly four minutes in, the Lobos only scored three points while Nevada had scored only four points.
UNM never got its lead larger than three points in the second quarter and, with Nunn out most of the frame, they struggled mightily. For the Wolf Pack, sophomore guard Camariah King scored the team’s last five points to put them up over the Lobos, 31-27, by halftime.
In the first half alone, the Lobos shot a measly 26.8 percent from the field, and made only three of its 15 3-point attempts. They also went 2-for-6 from the free throw line to add to the bad play.
“He said a couple things,” Nunn said of Bradbury’s advice at halftime. “It was mainly just (to) guard the ball and play harder, because we were not playing hard at all.”
But the team’s performance didn’t pick up right away for UNM. After letting the Wolf Pack go up by 12 points in the third quarter, things finally started to work in the Lobos’ favor. In the last half of the third quarter, UNM managed to outscore Nevada 23-7, while also taking the lead heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter, for the most part, was even for both teams offensively. UNM opened up the frame on a 5-0 run thanks to three made Lapeyrolerie free throws and a Nunn layup.
With about five minutes left to play, the Lobos flipped the script and found themselves with a double digit lead, 63-52, after Buck nailed a 3-pointer. But Nevada, slowly crawled its way back into the game. The Wolf Pack chipped away at the lead, pulling within seven points...then six...then four. They finally took the lead with under a minute.
But a costly turnover from Nevada’s King, when she stepped out of bounds on the inbounds play with five seconds, all but sealed the deal for UNM
As a team, the Lobos shot 34.2 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from beyond the arc. On the other hand, the Wolf Pack shot 38.8 percent from the field.
The Lobos forced 17 Nevada turnovers and committed 10 of their own.
Nevada outrebounded the Lobos 55-44, something Lapeyrolerie said her team needs to work on before their next game.
“As a team, we have to work on rebounding,” Lapeyrolerie said. “Because like Mike (Bradbury) said, (Boise State) is very good at rebounding and they’re kind of big.”
Lapeyrolerie had a technical early in the first half as well. At the press conference after the game, she said, laughingly, “That’s my last technical ever.”
Up next for the Lobos is another tough Mountain West opponent in Boise State. Tip-off for that game is on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at Dreamstyle Arena. The game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network.
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.