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Women's basketball: UNM moves up in MW standings after close win

With one second left to play on the game clock, the Spartans (9-11, 3-6 in the Mountain West) had a chance to send things into overtime with SJSU’s best free throw shooter, guard Ta’Rea Cunnigan, at the line.

Cunnigan is shooting a respectable 73 percent from the charity stripe on the season, but after missing the first free throw, she botched the second attempt to give her team a chance to send it to overtime. UNM snatched the board and sealed the game.

“People don’t understand how good San Jose State is and how good they are at home,” Lobo head coach Yvonne Sanchez said in a release. “They have very good players.”

Cunnigan made her presence felt with a 23-point performance against the Lobos (10-10, 6-3 MW), but couldn’t manage the game’s final free throws.

“It was a fun, fun game to be a part of — now (that it’s over),” Sanchez said. “If you lead by 20 against San Jose State, that’s not enough. They can score in bunches. It was a tough, tough game.”

New Mexico’s redshirt senior guard Antiesha Brown put up a sound showing of her own, nearing a double-double with the team-high 17 points and nine rebounds. Junior forward Khadijah Shumpert put together one of the game’s top performances as well, with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Just like the Lobos’ previous game against Wyoming on Jan. 24, Sanchez turned to her leaders in the locker room to overcome a halftime deficit.

“That’s what leaders do when they step up,” Sanchez said. “You challenge your seniors at halftime, and I did that.”

Sanchez said she wants the team to separate itself from the logjam of the conference. With a close win against the Spartans, she feels the Lobos are doing just that.

“We are starting to emerge,” Sanchez said. “But nothing is a gimme in this conference. We were fortunate to come out of here with a win.”

UNM now resides alone in the third-place spot in the close Mountain West race. The Lobos sit just one game behind the CSU Rams (15-5, 7-2 MW). However, the team will need significant help from other schools down the stretch to take the title away from Fresno State (17-3, 9-0 MW).

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Due to the Lobos’ strong conference record, they now sit at .500 for the first time all season. The feat comes at the halfway mark of conference play.

The Daily Lobo sports desk can be reached at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLoboSports.

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