The UNM women's basketball team moved one step closer to winning its first-ever Women's National Invitation Tournament Championship with an impressive 68-43 win over the University of Hawaii Saturday night in The Pit.
With the win, the Lobos improve their record to 22-12 and will play Ohio State University Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in The Pit to decide the WNIT champion. Ohio State advanced to the final game by defeating James Madison University 74-65 Sunday afternoon.
Hawaii finished its season at 26-8.
The Lobos opened the game on a 13-4 run, sparked by sophomore center Jordan Adams' nine points, and never looked back.
UNM controlled the momentum throughout the first half, using stifling defensive pressure that forced Hawaii into dismal eight-for-27 shooting from the field, including one-of-nine from behind the arc.
"I think our defense was great tonight," UNM head coach Don Flanagan said. "We were able to force them into tough shots, and we really boxed out well tonight."
The Lobos had a comfortable 37-17 halftime lead and were led by Adams, who punished the Hawaii defense, hitting seven-of-nine shots from the floor for 15 first-half points.
"Jordan was hitting her shots," junior guard Molly McKinnon said. "When she is hitting her shots, we try to give her the ball as much as possible."
Despite only hitting one-of-eight 3-point attempts, the Lobos still managed to shoot 55.2 percent in the first half. The Lobos also outrebounded the taller Hawaii team 23-9, with Adams and sophomore guard Chelsea Grear pulling down five boards apiece.
In the second half the Lobos continued their domination by opening up a 50-25 lead.
Hawaii tried to climb back into the game behind its leading scorer, senior forward Crystal Lee, who came into the game averaging 16 points per game. Lee managed to score 13 second-half points, including two deep 3-pointers, to finish with a team-high 15 points.
Hawaii used a 10-4 run to close the gap to 64-43, but four straight points by senior point guard Nikki Heckroth spelled the end of the Wahine's season.
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
UNM held Hawaii to only 27.3 percent shooting on the night, while the Lobos hit 50 percent from the floor.
Grear almost finished with a double-double, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds and scoring nine points. McKinnon had 10 second-half points to finish the game with 12, going six-of-seven from the floor.
So far the Lobos have blown out its four WNIT opponents by an average of 21 points, while scoring 73 a game. Meanwhile, their defense has allowed 53 points per contest.
"UNM is playing very well on both sides of the court," Hawaii head coach Vince Goo said. "Whoever they play on Wednesday better watch out - they are hot."
Wednesday's appearance in the WNIT title game is the first collegiate title game for the UNM basketball program since 1964.
The men's team reached the NIT title game against Bradley University that year, but lost 86-54.