Editor's Note: In the original version of this article, Cherise Beynon's name was misspelled in the photo cutline. This has been corrected. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
Putting the ball in the hoop, for most of the game, was a problem for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team. But a strong fourth quarter effort, and a key 4-point play from senior guard Laneah Bryan, willed the Lobos to a tough victory over Air Force, 57-49, at the Pit on Saturday afternoon.
Bryan, who played 26 minutes off of the bench, sunk a 3-pointer while also getting fouled. She drained it, as well as the free throw after, to put the Lobos (19-7, 7-6 Mountain West) up 50-48 with 5:25 left in the game—a lead they wouldn’t relinquish either.
The Lobos shot just 32.1 percent from the field, while also only making two 3s, both of which came by way of Bryan. But it wasn’t just the Lobos’ missing shots as much as it was Air Force (2-21, 2-10) locking down on defense.
“This is what you get when you play Air Force,” head coach Mike Bradbury said. “Since we played them at Air Force, every game they’ve played since then has been just like this one. Their record, by no stretch, indicated how dangerous of a team they are. They’re really, really, really good defensively.
“They guard you. They make it tough to get good shots. A lot of the times we didn’t get very good shots, but when we did it seemed like we rushed them a little bit.”
Junior post Jaisa Nunn started the scoring in the game after being fouled, as she sunk both of her subsequent free throws. The Lobos had a 4-1 lead, too, before Air Force went on a 7-0 run to make it 8-4 a little over four minutes into the first quarter. The Lobos’ struggles continued over the frame, and the Falcons jumped out to a 16-10 lead entering the second quarter.
But the Lobos picked things up in the second quarter, scoring the first three points of the frame on a free throw from freshman guard N’Dea Flye and a layup from senior guard Tesha Buck, to bring the game within three points, 16-13.
UNM faced another problem, though. At the end of the first quarter, senior guard Alex Lapeyrolerie appeared to have injured her left knee, as she fell down on a non-contact play on defense, and grabbed at it screeching in pain. She was carted up the Pit ramp and into the training room.
Speaking to media after his team’s win, Bradbury said that he had no update on Lapeyrolerie’s injury.
Nunn, who picked up two fouls early in the first quarter, finally came in a little over three minutes into the second quarter and tied things up at 19 points apiece on a layup. Again, Nunn struck a few possessions later to make it 23-21 in favor of the Lobos—their first lead since early in the first quarter. At the end of the frame, both teams entered halftime tied at 25 points apiece.
The Lobos were fortunate to be tied at the half considering they shot a measly 20.8 percent in the first half and went 0-for-6 from 3. Air Force wasn’t much better, as they shot 38.5 percent in the first half while also not making a single 3-pointer.
Both Nunn and senior guard Cherise Beynon took charge in the third quarter, scoring six points and five points, respectively, though Air Force still kept it close.
Entering the fourth quarter, though, the Lobos had a 42-39 advantage. And by the end of the game, after a crucial four quarter in which UNM outscored Air Force 15-10, the Lobos walked away victors, 57-49.
Nunn led all scorers with 25 points—her fourth straight game of 20 or more points—and Beynon finished with 15 points. Nunn also had eight rebounds, two shy of her fifteenth double-double. Beynon, on the other hand, had five assists.
The Lobos slightly won the rebounding battle, 38-37 behind Nunn’s team-high eight rebounds. Beynon finished with seven boards.
Up next for UNM is a road match against Utah State on Wednesday, Feb. 14 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.