The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team beat the University of San Diego Toreros 73-69 Sunday, March 20 at The Pit. The win advances the Lobos to the third round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament as one of only 16 teams left. Saturday’s win was the UNM women’s 26th in the season, only the third time they’ve reached that many wins in a single season in program history.
San Diego drew a stark stylistic contrast with the high-octane, sharp-shooting Lobos. Throughout the season, the Toreros have relied on defense and scoring in the paint to win games. The Lobos scored early and got up 5-0 before Sydney Hunter scored San Diego’s first points.
UNM suffered a big loss a little over halfway through the first quarter when Antonia Anderson committed her second foul and had to leave the game. Luckily for them, Shaiquel McGruder got off to a hot start and scored 4 points and grabbed five rebounds in the opening quarter.
The Toreros shot six free throws to the Lobos’ two in the first quarter, finishing the quarter up 14-12. That lead would expand to 25-19 with 4:01 left in the second quarter. The Lobos’ sixth person, Paula Reus, struggled to fill the gap that Anderson left when out. Help came from another two bench players, freshmen Aniyah Augmon and Kath van Bennekom, who sparked an 11-2 run in the last four minutes of the first half that put the Lobos up 30-27.
After the game, UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said the Lobos wouldn’t have won if not for Augmon and van Bennekom’s contributions in the second quarter and praised the way they play.
“They just play really hard,” Bradbury said. “They don’t have to have the ball.”
After a scoreless first half, Anderson came back in the third quarter with a furious offensive display, scoring 11 points on 5-6 shooting and four rebounds with the rest of the team following suit. Jaedyn De La Cerda added 9 points, the team went 4-4 on free throws and the Lobos expanded their lead to 54-41 at the end of the third quarter.
The Lobos kept their quality play going into the fourth quarter and expanded their lead by 17 (65-48) with 4:52 left in the game. UNM saw their lead disappear over the next 3 1/2 minutes, though, as they turned the ball over, failed to rebound and fouled too much. All too quickly, the game was tied at 65 with only 1:10 remaining.
LaTascya Duff responded on the next possession with a transition 3, assisted by her sister LaTora Duff, that put UNM up 68-65. She was also fouled, though she missed the additional free throw. San Diego came right back with a short corner jumper that made the score 68-67. Out of a Bradbury timeout, UNM went straight to McGruder, who drove in and brought the Lobos lead to 70-67. San Diego called a timeout to gather themselves, but a well-timed zone defense by the Lobos threw the Toreros off balance, and they turned the ball over with 21 seconds left.
San Diego was forced to foul McGruder on the in-bounds, and she made both free throws. San Diego airballed two 3s but made a layup to make the score 72-69 with seven seconds left. The Lobos got the ball to a good free throw shooter in De La Cerda, hoping that, once fouled, she would be able to put UNM up by more than one possession. She missed the first free throw but made her second, putting the Lobos up 73-69, at which San Diego airballed their last shot.
Bradbury said the Lobos’ defense in the second and third quarters of the game were some of the best that they’d played all season. The Lobos will next play Oregon State, and Bradbury made sure to note that The Pit would be a good place for the WNIT to have the game.
“Whoever needs to hear this, the momentum is building, and I don’t see in any way why we wouldn’t play the next game here,” Bradbury said.
Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy