It's the way every season ends, head coach Mike Bradbury pointed out. Still, that doesn't make it any easier on the players who play in their final game.
The Lobos fell on Thursday night to the University of Denver in the first round of the Women's WNIT, 83-75. Jaisa Nunn lead the Lobos with 26 points and 12 rebounds in her final collegiate game.
Things changed dramatically for the Lobos in their final regular season game when Aisia Robertson tore her ACL, and UNM was never able to adapt, losing back-to-back games for the first time all year and skid into the offseason.
Bradbury said that Robertson's loss was felt throughout the entire team, because an injury like that effects the other players at her position as well. It meant moving Jayla Everett to the point guard spot where she hasn't played all year and inserting Jaedyn De La Cerda into the starting lineup, which weakens the bench.
"You have to move somebody to the one, Jayla Everett is a tremendous player, she hasn't been good in these two games either, not her fault," Bradbury said. "You get worse at the one, you get worse at the two, now you're worse on the bench."
The Pioneers controlled the pace of the game and lead for all but 31 seconds of action.
"(The pace) was really, really fast," Nunn said. "The first two minutes I was trying to catch my breath cause they just kept going and going. They're a really good offensive team and it showed, they hit threes right off of transition. They got the ball out when we scored and still shot it in transition. They're a really good team."
The Lobos struggled defensively, missing numerous assignments that lead to easy looks inside for Madison Nelson, who lead all scorers with 27 and added 12 rebounds of her own. DU shot 40 percent from the floor and 33 percent from the three point line.
UNM, by comparison, struggled from beyond the arc, shooting just 18 percent and going 5-for-27. It was the second straight contest that saw the Lobos fail to shoot more than 20 percent from three, an area that has been a strength for the team all season.
De La Cerda played all 40 minutes for UNM, scoring 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
Everett broke one of the longest standing records in program history, breaking Yvonne McKinnon's record for the most points by a freshman in a season with 417 points. McKinnon played for the Lobos from 1981-85.
Bradbury also made it a point to make sure that senior Emily Lines saw some action in tonight's game after she didn't play on senior night.
"We had talked before senior night, he had said that he was going to try to put me in and give me a couple of minutes," Lines said. "I told him I'd rather win than play, I didn't want to mess up the rotation, so I said do what we normally do and if it happens fine, if it doesn't that's fine too... Getting a chance to be on the court my last time, my last game playing basketball was pretty cool."
Lines played 1:20 and finished with two points and a rebound.
Denver advances to the second round of the tournament and will take on the Idaho Vandals, while UNM begins to prepare for next November.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.