On her first 3-point attempt this season, junior post Jaisa Nunn nailed it with confidence — and off of the backboard, of course.
But that shot wasn’t enough.
Wyoming — who had an answer for the Lobos at every corner — was already up by four points with just two seconds to play. The shot was, in essence, meaningless as the Lobos fell, 63-62, at the Pit on Wednesday evening.
The Cowgirls slowed down the fast-paced Lobos to their speed, pressuring them on defense and hitting threes with ease. They held UNM to 38 percent shooting, though that number is skewed, since the Lobos hit 57.1 percent of their shots in the fourth quarter. In the other three, the Lobos weren’t there offensively.
Wyoming hit 50 percent of its 3-point attempts (10-of-20) and 37.7 percent of its shots overall, though that wasn’t all. They also outrebounded the Lobos 37-31, with 12 of those being on the offensive end — and they came when it mattered most.
For most of the fourth quarter, both teams played physically.
Fouls were called and fouls weren’t called, and though UNM outscored the Cowgirls 24-18 in the quarter, it was never enough. The Lobos had their chances, with the Cowgirls leading by no more than four points in the last two minutes of play. But freshman guard N’Dea Flye, when UNM was down 58-55 with under a minute, threw the ball away and turned it over.
Wyoming is just the second team this season to beat the Lobos at home — UNLV accomplished that earlier in the season.
“Here’s the thing: I’m not going to sit here...It’s my fault that we didn’t (follow the game plan),” UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said. “It probably happened four or five times — and it probably happens four or five times every game. The difference is, (Wyoming) makes you pay. Not some of the time, every single time they make you pay.”
On the bright side for the Lobos, though, senior guard Tesha Buck broke the program record for threes made in a season — she now has 83.
The Lobos started out the first quarter with a full court press, making it hard on Wyoming offensively. UNM reeled off seven straight points to open up the game — with senior guard Cherise Beynon contributing five of those — to take an early 7-0 lead. But Wyoming sophomore forward Taylor Rusk, nearly five minutes into the frame, put the Cowgirls on the board by nailing a 3-pointer.
Toward the end of the first quarter, the Lobos had a 13-5 lead, before Wyoming senior guard Liv Roberts hit a 3, then followed up the possession after with a layup to bring the game within three points, 13-10, entering the second quarter.
Wyoming followed up its strong end to the first quarter by keeping its pace — both offensively and defensively — at the start of the second and beyond. Though it took two minutes for either team to score, the Cowgirls nailed a 3-pointer to tie things up at 13 points apiece. Sophomore forward Selale Kepenc scored Wyoming’s first seven points in the quarter and eventually gave her team its first lead, 17-14, when she nailed another 3-pointer.
The Lobos, in the second quarter, scored only one point in the first five minutes on 1-of-2 made free throws by Nunn, but Buck nailed a 3 to end that streak.
Later in the frame, Buck set a nice screen at the top of the key, which set up a clear lane for senior guard Laneah Bryan to make a layup and put the Lobos up 23-22 with three minutes before halftime. However, Wyoming nailed a 3 on the next possession, and UNM scored only one more point before the half.
Wyoming had a 25-24 halftime lead.
All looked well for the Lobos at the start of the third quarter, when Beynon made a layup to put her team up 26-25. But shortly after Nunn made a layup to put her team up 28-27, the Cowgirls went on a 9-0 run to put themselves up 36-28 before Bryan hit a 3-pointer for the Lobos to shorten that lead. Beynon, at the end of the quarter, hit both of her free throws to shorten Wyoming’s lead to seven points, 45-38.
UNM had three scorers in double figures, with Nunn leading the way with 19 points. Beynon had 13 points and Buck had 11 points.
For Wyoming, Kepenc scored 15 points while also nailing all four of her 3-point attempts.
Aside from leading her team in scoring, Nunn also had nine rebounds, two of which were offensive.
The Lobos play again on Saturday, when they travel to UNLV for their second matchup this season. Last time the two teams met, UNLV won a 68-66 nailbiter at the Pit.
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 contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.