The University of New Mexico women's basketball team played a tight one on Saturday afternoon, but overcame a late deficit to hand the Wyoming Cowgirls their first home loss of the season.
New Mexico (15-2, 5-1 MW) had to withstand a 3-point barrage from its opponent — Wyoming hit 12 of them on the afternoon — as the teams traded blows in a game that featured 16 lead changes.
The Lobos struck first with a quick 6-0 spurt to start the game, establishing an early inside presence. But the Cowgirls rattled off nine straight points — seven of which came from senior forward Marta Gomez — to stake their claim on the lead.
Bre'Asiajah Mathews briefly reclaimed the lead for the Lobos after knocking down a pair of free throws late in the first quarter, but the teams traded off hitting three 3-pointers over a 30 second stretch that wound up netting Wyoming a 17-15 advantage after one period of play.
UNM exerted its will in the second quarter, getting contributions from a multitude of players.
Senior post Jaisa Nunn is known for her work down on the blocks. She had only fired off 10 attempts for long range all season, but kicked things off with a 3-pointer and scored the first six Lobo points in the quarter to seize a 21-19 lead.
Wyoming responded with back-to-back 3-pointers, but Ahlise Hurst stepped up with a quick-hitting scoring spurt. She knocked down a 3-ball of her own before recording a steal and sticking a jumper to tilt the score in the Lobos' favor, 26-25 with 5:22 remaining in the half.
Shaiquel McGruder made a couple of shots down low, sandwiched between Jadyn de la Cerda and Jayla Everett makes from beyond the arc — the latter of which gave the UNM its biggest lead of the game, 36-27, with 1:36 to go in the first half.
Gomez got a shot to fall a little bit later for Wyoming to cut the deficit to seven before halftime.
That shot may have got things clicking for the Cowgirls, as Gomez struck again and led a 7-0 charge for Wyoming as it evened things up at 36-36 over the first two minutes and change.
New Mexico was able to pick up a three-point lead on a couple of occasions over the next several minutes, but the balance of power shifted back to Wyoming and the Lobos eventually fell behind.
Wyoming went on a 7-0 run before Gomez connected from long range again to give the Cowgirls a 53-48 edge and made a pair of free throws to give her team a four point margin with 50 seconds remaining.
But New Mexico closed things out strong. Everett made a 3 and forced a Wyoming turnover on the ensuing possession, setting up an Aisia Robertson score as time expired to steal a 57-56 lead entering the final quarter.
But the momentum didn't carry over into the fourth quarter — at least not early on. Robertson did make a 3-pointer with a little over a minute into the period, but it was the only shot UNM made over a five-plus minute stretch. New Mexico couldn't find the bottom of the net, missing some contested shoots and some opportunities at the foul line and compounded the problem by committing some costly turnovers.
That opened the door for Wyoming to regain control of the game. And the Lobos trailed by as many as six points more than halfway through the final period and feel behind by that margin again, 68-62, after a Bailee Cotton layup with 4:33 to play.
But once again, the Lobos closed strong — showing they had one more good run left in the tank. Everett and Nunn both made shots that cut the deficit to three, and then Robertson took over — scoring seven straight points in about 70 seconds to snag a 74-70 lead for UNM with just 1:12 remaining.
Gomez made a 3-pointer to pull Wyoming with one with 43 seconds to play, but the Lobos were able to maintain a three-point advantage by making their free throws down the stretch, and preserved a 78-75 victory after a game-tying attempt by Wyoming was off the mark.
Robertson led a trio of Lobos in double-digit scoring with 24 points, while Gomez turned in a game-high 28 points on the Wyoming side. Both schools shot 44 percent from beyond the arc and combined to make 23 3-pointers in the game.
The win snapped a six-game Wyoming winning streak over New Mexico and kept the Lobos in a tie with Utah State for second place in the Mountain West conference standings this season. Boise State is in first place with nine straight wins an boast an unblemished 5-0 record in league play.
New Mexico will return to Albuquerque and try to improve on a 10-1 home record when it hosts UNLV on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.