LAS VEGAS — A well-balanced performance from the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team helped it grab a win in the first round of the 2018 Mountain West Tournament over the No. 11 seed San Jose State Spartans.
UNM (23-9), the conference's No. 6 ranked team, got big performances out of its starters to dominate the Spartans (7-23) en route to an impressive 84-54 victory.
Junior post Jaisa Nunn had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead the Lobos, while senior guards Tesha Buck and Cherise Beynon had 18 and 14 points, respectively. Beynon led New Mexico in rebounding with 11 boards on her way to a double-double.
Lobo senior Laneah Bryan had a monster performance — but most may be surprised to read the big impact she made was on the glass. The 5-6 guard hauled in 10 rebounds, marking a new career best single-game total. Her highest rebounding total this season was four.
“I was really proud of our team,” UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said. “I thought we came out from the beginning and played really, really hard. I thought defensively in the first half we were probably at our best. And we really rebounded to finish off those possessions. I think it allowed us to get some baskets in transition.”
After a couple of missed shots from both teams to start the game, Beynon scored the first points of the game and completed an and-one opportunity. SJSU countered with a layup from senior guard Myzhanique Ladd to make it 3-2 in the early going.
But UNM gained a big advantage with a 9-0 run, capped by an N'Dea Flye layup to go up by double digits. The burst seemingly allowed the Lobos to take control of the game, going up by a score of 12-2 at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter.
But San Jose State rallied back — and after just a couple of short minutes, SJSU sophomore guard Analyss Benally sank a 3-point basket to cut UNM’s lead to 14-10.
From there, things cooled down as the game went scoreless for nearly four minutes before freshman forward Antonia Anderson of UNM hit a jumper to get things back on track. Beynon hit a 3-pointer to close out the first quarter scoring and give the Lobos a 19-12 advantage.
In the second quarter, UNM didn’t shy away on offense. SJSU looked like it was onto something after scoring a layup almost immediately out of the gate. But the Lobos responded with a layup from Nunn and a jumper from Flye to put them up 23-14.
Then, the game broke wide open.
UNM recorded back-to-back 3's from Buck, then added a third from freshman guard Madi Washington to put New Mexico on top 34-20. From there, the Lobos steadily added onto their lead — and stretched the margin to 47-26 by halftime.
The teams played to a virtual stalemate in the third quarter, as the Spartans and Lobos traded buckets to open the period. Nunn scored the first four UNM points following halftime on a pair of layups and Buck tallied the final seven points of the period as the two players accounted for all 11 Lobo points points in the third quarter, outpacing the eight points scored by the Spartans.
SJSU picked up its pace in the fourth quarter, but the Lobos had built a lead that proved to be insurmountable after they opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run that culminated in a 3-pointer from Buck to make the score 63-34 in favor of UNM.
With the margin so large, Bradbury opted to put some of his bench players into the game — and they continued to pour it on. Freshman guard Jasmine Smith scored four points, a total that was matched by junior forward Emily Lines as well.
Freshman guard Jaedyn de la Cerda scored the final five UNM points of the game, helping the Lobos coast to a dominant 84-54 victory over the Spartans.
UNM took advantage of SJSU in the paint all night long, outscoring the Spartans 49-28 in that statistical category. The Lobos also won the rebounding battle, outperforming their opponent on the boards by a 59-41 margin.
New Mexico shot 41 percent as a team from the field, though it was just 7-of-28 (25 percent) from beyond the arc. The Spartans struggled to find their shot, going just 26.8 percent from the floor.
The Lobo victory will set up a third meeting between New Mexico and No. 3 Wyoming on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. Wyoming won both of the regular season meetings earlier in the year.
"They got the best coach in the league, they got the best player in the league. They shoot the 3 the best of anyone in the league, Bradbury said when asked what his team’s mindset would be heading into Tuesday's game against the Cowgirls. "So, I don’t know — probably don’t have a chance. But they’re gonna make us show up, so we’ll show up and see what happens.”
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.