The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team (11-8, 2-4 MW) hosted the Colorado State Rams (8-9, 2-4 MW) at home on Jan. 15 in a must-win game for each team.
The game was driven by a burst of third quarter offense from UNM and a lights-out performance from redshirt senior guard Aisia Robertson. The Lobos won their second straight with a score of 73-62 after suffering through a four-game funk over the winter break before pulling out a 75-53 victory at Air Force on Jan. 11.
Robertson carried the bulk of the offensive load for the Lobos, notching a season-high 25 points and adding 7 assists and rebounds apiece on 8-for-16 shooting. UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said the measured pace of the Rams’ offense wasn’t a burden for his scheme.
"You can't make someone shoot it. If they're just not going to shoot, then they're just not going to," Bradbury said after the game. "There's no need in beating your head against the wall with them trying to make it be 90 points ... We figure(d) when we play(ed) them, if we can get to 70 we’ve got a great chance."
Both teams started slowly to set up plays and create open looks at the outset of the first quarter, a harbinger of how the rest of the game went as both teams traded 3-pointers throughout the contest.
For the Lobos especially, getting those open shots was important due to not being able to make their usual amount of free throws. UNM went only 1-for-4 from the charity stripe in the first quarter, contributing to the Lobos’ 15-14 deficit in the opening frame.
"They punched us in the face early and made every single shot," Bradbury said. "They were 9-for-16 at one point, and then we changed defenses and they went 2-for-12 to finish (from three). That was a big difference."
The second quarter started with a faster pace, as the teams battled in the paint and created shot opportunities that were missing in the first quarter.
Scoring opportunities for both teams abounded as increased pace led to turnovers, transition buckets and fouls. Up to that point, both teams matched stride on the scoreboard. With the new tempo set up, Colorado State and UNM strived to out-hustle and out-pace each other, which awoke a more excited and thunderous crowd.
However, Colorado State went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc during the second quarter, whereas the Lobos failed to convert a single three. The Rams’ shooting touch helped them take a 33-32 lead into the break.
Both teams opened the second half firing from distance. UNM created their largest lead of the night after Robertson drained her fourth 3-point shot, giving them a seven-point edge halfway through the third quarter.
After a timeout, the Lobos came out guns ablaze with multiple steals kicking off a 9-0 run. Entering the final period, the Lobos commanded a 58-44 lead after outscoring the Rams 26-11 in the third quarter. At that point, both teams had already combined for 51 3-point attempts.
"We were looking to play at a faster pace offensively," Bradbury said of the Lobos’ third quarter offensive explosion. "I thought Ahlise (Hurst) was huge in the third quarter. She attacked the basket a couple (of) times, hit some key threes and kind of got us going."
Robertson consistently created plays for easy points in the paint for the Lobos during the fourth quarter, finishing with 7 assists on the night. Senior forward Jordan Hosey also dominated the quarter on the offensive glass for the Lobos, capitalizing on multiple second-chance opportunities and finishing the game with 13 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.
Robertson said after the game the slower pace the Rams presented challenged her run-and-gun style but brought UNM’s defensive strengths to the forefront.
"I could fly up and down the court all day," she said. "When they want to slow it down and do the fundamentals ... it’s definitely hard, but it challenges our defense. That's one thing that I believe that our team is really good at."
Angelina Pompeo is a sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PompeoAngelina