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<font color="red"><ib>Web Exclusive:</font> UNM women fall to CSU in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The UNM women’s basketball team fell short in a furious comeback, losing 70-65 Friday to Colorado State University in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

The win catapults the Rams (23-6) into the finals, where they will battle Brigham Young University, which outscored Utah 37-10 in the second half to knock off the 13th-ranked Utes 57-50. The winner will receive an automatic bid into next week’s NCAA Tournament.

The loss drops the Lobos to 18-12 and the team’s only hope to extend the season is an invitation to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Both teams came out sizzling as CSU built a 23-20 lead midway through the first half. UNM went on a 7-0 run, led by junior guard Molly McKinnon, who finished with 13 points on five-of-eight shooting from the field.

UNM looked like it would take a lead into halftime at 32-31, but CSU freshman Joy Jenkins connected on a 3-pointer from the corner as the horn sounded, giving the Rams a 34-32 halftime lead.

The Rams jumped out fast on UNM, using a 9-2 run to go up 43-34. Shannon Strecker had six points and three offensive rebounds during the run.

“The offensive rebounding hurt us a great deal today against Colorado State,” UNM head coach Don Flanagan said.

UNM quickly responded with an 8-2 run on 3-pointers by seniors Miranda Sanchez and Nikki Heckroth to close the gap to 45-42. CSU slowly gained control of the game and appeared to have the game sealed with less than four minutes remaining and a commanding 62-51 advantage. But UNM sophomore Cristal Garcia hit two 3-pointers that electrified the Lobo crowd and sparked a furious comeback to bring the Lobos to within 66-63 with only 46.8 seconds remaining. Garcia finished with 13 points off the bench and three-of-four shooting from behind the 3-point arc.

“She played great defense and showed a lot of poise out there,” Flanagan said. “It was no fault in her game; she really gave us a great lift.”

UNM had a golden opportunity as Strecker missed two critical free throws, but a CSU offensive rebound forced the Lobos to foul junior Angie Gordon, who connected on one-of-two free throws for a 67-63 Rams lead. UNM had one final chance to send the game into overtime, down 68-65 with 18.6 seconds remaining, but sophomore center Jordan Adams missed a handoff to Garcia and turned the ball over to CSU, crushing the Lobos’ chance.

“We were not looking for any one player,” Flanagan said. “It should not have happened; you have two offensive players simply bumping into each other.”

For the third time this season, the Rams held UNM leading scorer Jordan Adams in check. Adams had averaged only six points and three rebounds in the two teams’ meetings this season. Friday, Adams was held to six points and two rebounds in 27 minutes.

UNM finished shooting 44.4 percent from the field, including 11-of-27 from 3-point land for 40.7 percent, while the Rams shot 44.2 percent and eight-of-23 from behind the arc. CSU had a huge advantage from the free-throw line, connecting on 16 of 24 attempts, while the Lobos went six-of-10.

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“I think our offense did good today,” Flanagan said. “They just made a few more plays and less mistakes down the stretch.”

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