The Lobos knew that Ahlise Hurst could shoot — she had showed it in practice, she just hadn’t exhibited it in a game yet.
Hurst tied the freshman scoring record with 39 points in a performance that Nike McClure said should be a warning to the Mountain West as the Lobos clawed their way to a hard-fought 84-80 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday evening.
“That was incredible,” McClure said of Hurst’s performance. “This is going to give her the confidence she needs to shoot her through the rest of the season, especially as a freshman. I think you guys need to watch out for her in the Mountain West these next couple of years because she can shoot from anywhere.”
Hurst, starting her second game in a row, opened the scoring for the Lobos and set the tone for the night she would have early on, something she attributes to her increasing confidence.
“I’ve just been really nervous the last couple of games,” she said. “From the last game we had in Houston I got a lot more confident and it just kept going, as soon as I made that first shot it just kept going and I was able to play.”
By the end of the first quarter, in which she played every second, she had already set a new career high with 12 points thanks to 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. It was fortunate timing for the breakout, as head coach Mike Bradbury said the Lobos needed every one of the 39 points she finished with on a night where Aisia Robertson and Jaisa Nunn struggled to make shots.
The duo, who have been the Lobos’ engine all season long as the team’s two best players, were a combined 7-for-28 from the field for 17 points.
Bradbury made sure to point out that he still felt that the pair played well, as Nunn finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds to record a double-double, and Robertson broke the school record for the most assists in a game with 16, two-thirds of the total tally for the team.
At the end of the first quarter, the Lobos were down 23-19, and needed a 12-0 scoring run to get the game close again after the Sooners got out to an 11 point lead midway through the quarter.
That was the story for much of the first half, as the Sooners went on a scoring run of at least seven points in each of the first two quarters to build leads.But each time they did UNM answered right back and by the end of the first half, it was the Lobos who held a one-point lead, 41-40, thanks to Hurst’s 24 points and a seven-point advantage in points off of the fast break.
The reason Hurst had earned the start and her minutes, Bradbury said, was because she is the Lobos’ best defender at her position, but there she was leading the offensive charge.
UNM’s defense came up with a massive third quarter, only allowing the Sooners 12 points, as the Lobos were able to build a lead that grew to as many as 16. That built the separation necessary to weather Oklahoma throwing everything at them in the fourth.
OU started the fourth quarter off hot, going on a 14-4 run over the first five minutes of the final quarter to cut the Lobos’ 14-point lead down to just two, and to force a UNM timeout. Shots weren’t falling for New Mexico, and the lead was cut to one after Oklahoma earned free throws following a technical foul being called on Bradbury, who wasn’t happy with the officiating on some physical play on the paint.
One point was as close as the Sooners would get however, as the Lobos got the offense going again thanks to Antonia Anderson and Jaedyn De La Cerda, who provided the critical minutes — and production — for the Lobos to stretch the lead back to five. With UNM clinging to a two-point lead, Hurst hit a 3-pointer with a minute to go that seemed to energize the Lobos and help them get across the finish line.
The Sooners would cut the lead to two again with ten seconds to go, but Robertson came through at the line to secure the victory for the Lobos, who celebrated as soon as the buzzer sounded.
Cameron Goeldner is a senior reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for all other sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Goeldfinger.