Two missed shots down by three in the last seconds of the game led to a 79-76 loss by the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team at the hands of the Auburn Tigers in the 2018 Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals Sunday.
New Mexico (1-1) also had a significant injury in the fourth quarter. Senior forward Nike McClure was going for a layup, when she landed on a defender’s foot. She hurt her left ankle and had to be carted off. Team officials said McClure was expected to receive further evaluation Sunday evening.
Momentum swung back and forth, as the lead changed 17 times throughout the game. It went down to the wire and, with 17 seconds left on the clock, Auburn’s Daisa Alexander broke the 76-76 tie on a baseline jumper, was fouled and made a free-throw to give Auburn a three point lead over the Lobos.
In a last-ditch effort to even things up on the scoreboard, freshman Jayla Everett and redshirt junior Aisia Robertson both attempted 3-pointers, but neither was able to sink the shot.
“Tonight we were on the the short end of that basket,” UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said.
When asked about the game play, Bradbury said it just came down to the final minutes.
“They got one bad shot and put in, and we got two great shots and they didn’t, I mean take that and live with it,” Bradbury said.
Three starters — senior center Jaisa Nunn, Robertson, and Everett — played most of the game. Robertson clocked nearly 39 minutes of gameplay, while Everett played 37, and Nunn logged 31.
However, free throws were a significant portion of the points scored in the game. Auburn sunk 18 points at the line. UNM performed poorly in the first half, going just 2-of-10 at the free throw line. The team’s percentage for the game was 66 percent.
There were a total of 12 fouls by halftime, but play moved much faster in the second half. It was a physical game, and a lot of players spent time going to the floor — however, neither team had a player foul out.
Auburn Sophomore forward Unique Thompson pulled down 19 boards, breaking her 13-rebound record from the team’s Election Day game against Grambling.
“I was proud of the fight we had, battling back,” Bradbury said. “I think Nike went out and got hurt when we were down five, we came back to back-to-back 3s to get ahead, you know some teams that work together, could’ve packed it in and lost by 10 or 12 points.”
Everett shouldered the blame for the team’s loss.
“I thought I hit it, I really thought I hit it,” Everett said. “I was trying to make up for fouling that girl at the end, so I felt like it was pretty much my fault.”
However, it was Everett who paced the Lobos with 25 points, shooting 7-of-10 from 3-point range. She was critical to opening a lead in the second quarter when she sunk a pair of 3s from the right corner and made a couple of free throws to put the Lobos up 31-29 at the time.
Everett also made a couple of big 3-point baskets in the final minutes to keep the Lobos within striking distance, including one that tied the game at 76-76 with 31 seconds to play.
UNM will play a promised third game in the WNIT next week, a home consolation game against Hartford tip-off at 2 p.m. at the Dreamstyle Arena — The Pit.
Danielle Prokop is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.