The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team continued their unprecedented conference win streak with a 80-74 victory over California State University, Fresno Bulldogs on Saturday at The Pit. UNM is now 7-0 in conference play, though that perfect record looked to be in jeopardy throughout the first half.

Fresno State started the game a little frazzled, but once they got the ball in the 2021 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Haley Cavinder’s hands consistently, it became clear what they wanted to do. Fresno State came to The Pit with a very good plan to slow the game down and play in the halfcourt, and UNM struggled to adjust to their tempo. Fresno made the Lobos work hard to bring the ball up the court by employing a soft, three-quarter press that dropped back into a halfcourt zone.



UNM was dismantled inside by Fresno State’s Wytalla Motta, who scored 15 points on 6-8 shooting while Haley Cavinder and her twin Hanna combined for 21. The Lobos helped Fresno State by not rebounding (they got beat on the boards 27-15), which gave the Bulldogs 15 second-chance points in the first half and let them easily set up their press.

Down 47-38 going into halftime, it was clear what UNM needed to do to get back into the game. The Lobos had already found the holes in Fresno State’s zone defense, and they needed to exploit them and rebound on defense. The Lobos began to play within the pace of the game rather than trying too hard to push it and exploited the holes in Fresno State’s zone defense. 

UNM went inside consistently, where they had Antonia Anderson on the high post and first Shaiquel McGruder and then Paula Reus running the baseline short corner to short corner. The posts were highly effective whenever they got the ball, dishing out to each other and diving to the rim to get high-percentage looks and draw fouls.

The Lobos’ decisive offense allowed them to take the lead and eventually win the game. UNM outrebounded the Bulldogs 24-21 in the second half, which allowed them to run more and score eight fastbreak points. The Lobos’ aggressive traps on the Cavinder twins off of screens made them give up the ball five times in the second half, which UNM managed to turn into 10 points.

Freshman Reus made a big change in her approach in the second half; throughout the first half she settled open mid-range jump shots that the zone would give her. These shots weren’t falling so she began attacking the basket more in the last quarter resulting in nine fourth quarter points and a season-high of 19 points overall.

Reus continues to be UNM’s standout freshman this season and the only one playing consistent minutes along with the starters and plays with a freedom that is rarely given to a young player, something that head coach Mike Bradbury thinks she’s earned.

“Shai(quel McGruder) wasn’t very interested in playing today, and Paula was,” Bradbury said. “I’m tired of saying it, we know how talented (Paula) is. This (performance) is what we expect … This is what Paula does most nights and should do every night because she’s that good.”

Anderson was phenomenal and scored 15 of her 22 points in the second half while going 5-6 at the free-throw line. After the game, she said the second half was the most focused she’d been on offense all season and that she was extremely excited about having reached 1,000 career points.

UNM has an extremely short break before their next game against San José State University today at 5:30 p.m. at The Pit, though they will face a much weaker opponent who has yet to win a game in conference. For his part, Bradbury wasn’t worried about playing two games in three days.

“We’re used to this,” Bradbury said. “They’re young — they’re 18, 20 years old.”

Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy