Head coach Yvonne Sanchez said beforehand that the Lobos needed to slow down Utah State’s freshman point guard Funda Nakkasoglu, and the team did just that.
Nakkasoglu scored only 12 points and committed five turnovers at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, in Logan, Utah. The guard/forward is averaging 15.6 points per contest, according to the Mountain West.
In previous games the Lobos have found success from their bench play, to wear teams out down the stretch. However, on Saturday the Lobos relied on the starting five to overcome a late 51-47 hole.
“It was an all-around team win and I’m really, really proud of them,” Sanchez said in a release. “This time the starters got it done.”
The Lobos’ success this season has predominantly come at home, but Sanchez said it is crucial to collect victories on the road as well. UNM’s late-game heroics certainly came through this time.
With 3:26 left in the game, the Lobos had just worked to tie it up at 47-47. However, four consecutive points gave USU a 51-47 advantage.
“I told them they were exactly where they needed to be. They had put themselves in a position to win the game,” Sanchez said.
Despite losing the battle on the glass, being out rebounded 37-35 by the Aggies, the Lobos collected the boards they needed down the stretch. Second-chance points and an Antiesha Brown 3-pointer sparked a UNM nine-point run in the game’s final minutes that proved to be enough to walk out of Utah with a win.
“We took better care of the ball and we did the things we needed to,” Sanchez said. “The last few minutes everybody did their job.”
Brown and Khadijah Shumpert combined for 24 of the team’s 56 points. Shumpert had the game-high 13 points and a team-high of seven boards. She provided the Lobos with just about all of their production inside the paint.
Normally a strong point for the Lobos, the Aggies (6-17, 3-8 Mountain West) scored 26 points inside compared to the Lobos’ 18. It was the Lobos’ clutch free throws and sound shooting in the game’s winding minutes that propelled them to 12-10 on the season and 8-3 in the conference.
The five-game winning streak is the season-high for the Lobos, and the team has now won eight of its past nine games. They return to WisePies Arena Wednesday, where the Lobos have been quite dominant.
Riding an eight-game home winning streak, the Lobos will look to capitalize on their home court advantage in a huge game against Colorado State (17-5 9-2 MW). The Rams sit just one game above UNM for second place in the conference.
The Daily Lobo sports desk can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLoboSports.