The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team resoundingly defeated Utah State University 93-73 Wednesday, Feb. 16 at The Pit. The win makes the Lobos 12-3 in conference play, still trailing the No. 1 University of Nevada, Las Vegas but far ahead of the 9-4 University of Nevada, Reno.
Utah State has struggled this season and was only 3-11 going into Wednesday’s game. UNM beat the Aggies 98-83 in Utah in January, and the Lobos scored more than 90 points the previous two times they played Utah State before this season.
Both teams got off to a fast start offensively. The Aggies looked to post up against UNM’s Shaiquel McGruder and got a good mix of driving layups, outside jumpers and post scoring. The Lobos were able to keep up with Utah State with a couple of fast-break scores, good penetration by Antonia Anderson and some midrange mastery by Jaedyn De La Cerda, but they missed six layups in the first quarter alone. Even though they should have been up, the Lobos still were able to finish the quarter tied with the Aggies 22-22.
Utah State went ice cold in the second quarter, only managing to score two layups and a three and turning the ball over a horrendous nine times. De La Cerda went 3-3 from the field on consecutive possessions to put the Lobos up 32-24, though credit for her last three also has to go to freshman Aniyah Augmon, who pushed the ball off of her steal and found De La Cerda on the wing.
Things didn’t get better for Utah State, and they had just about as bad an end to the half as there could be with six turnovers, a blocked shot and a technical. They ended the half down 51-29 to the Lobos.
The Aggies showed some signs of life once halftime was over and outscored the Lobos 11-6 in the first four minutes of the second half. Unfortunately for them, UNM began running off of some fantastic outlet passes and getting to the line. By the end of the third quarter, the Lobos shot 10-11 from the free throw line and extended their lead to 77-47.
Starter LaTascya Duff played the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, but with such a big lead, UNM head coach Mike Bradbury elected to give his bench some playing time. Augmon continued to use her improved handle to attack the basket and added two more field goals to the one she scored in the first half. It’s no secret that she’s probably the fastest player that the Lobos have, but she has a new control on her drives, decelerating and embracing contact from her defender rather than trying to outrun them to the rim.
Paula Reus only got five minutes of play in the fourth quarter, but she made better use of her length throughout the game to get deflections and block shots. Mackenzie Curtis and Rebeka Renczes made their first field goals since November, and Kath van Bennekom continues to be the most solid UNM bench player not named Reus. Utah State made up some ground against the Lobos’ bench, but they lost 93-73.
After the game, Bradbury said it felt good to get a win after his team’s loss at Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 12. He said he liked the Lobos’ offensive pace and defense during the second and third quarters. He also talked about the good game that Augmon played.
“She’s going to give you everything that she has,” Bradbury said. “She’s going to play hard. She’s going to compete. She’s vocal. She’s a great teammate … She’s going to be a really, really good player.”
The Lobos will play their last home game of the season Saturday, Feb. 19 against Boise State University, which will also be their Senior Day. Five-year players De La Cerda and Anderson will be playing their last games at The Pit, while others, like McGruder, will have the chance to return next season. De La Cerda predicted a special and emotional night, particularly for herself and Anderson.
“It’s our last game here at The Pit in front of the most amazing fans, my parents, playing with Mike and stuff like that,” De La Cerda said. “I’m getting a little emotional right now, but it’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be (the transition into) a new chapter into my life.”
Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy