The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team played the West Texas A&M University Lady Buffs in their opening exhibition match, walking away with a 84-75 victory. The Lady Buffs are a Division II athletics university; last season, they finished in the Elite Eight of the Division II women’s basketball tournament.
The team had a good showing with four starters scoring 14 or more. LaTascya Duff had 17 points and her twin sister LaTora Duff had a team high nine assists; she also had two steals and a block. Paula Reus had eight rebounds to lead the Lobos.
The team had a hot start with their 3-point scoring, but ended the game making just eight of their 28 attempts. Before the game, the two head coaches agreed to both play a zone defense in the second quarter until the first media timeout. During this time, the Lobos were outscored 21-5; penetrating zone defense will be something the Lobos will look to improve over the season.
The Lobos won the tip off to start the game, but the two teams remained scoreless for the first minute; it was Lady Buff Karley Motschenbacher who scored the first points of the game off a layup. Reus had a layup to tie the game which led to the Duff twins going on a 3-point barrage to put the Lobos up 13-12 at the first media timeout with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
Out of the timeout, the Lobos immediately hit a 3-pointer and, after an empty possession for WTU, they fouled LaTasca Duff. UNM’s 11-point scoring run was ended by Zamorye Roberts, but that did not slow the Lobos down: LaTasca Duff had a steal which led to an easy layup.
The first quarter ended with the Lobos up 27-19. At the end of the quarter, the team was shooting an impressive 5-9 from the 3-point line which helped the Lobos to build their lead, but also led to them taking more 3-point attempts, for better or for worse.
In the second quarter, both teams played a zone defense; the Lobos also started with sloppy play on offense with back-to-back turnovers. WTU quickly took the lead; UNM didn’t score until 3 minutes into the quarter with a pair of free throws from LaTascya Duff. New Mexico was on a near 3-minute scoring drought and were down 40-32 at the media timeout.
Back to playing one-on-one coverage, the Lobos were able to take off with Shaiquel McGruder scoring back-to-back layups, helping to put the Lobos back on track. Aniyah Augmon put the Lobos within 1 point on a layup and free throw. The half ended with the Lobos down 40-39. New Mexico’s 3-point shooting fell off in the second quarter, shooting 0-9 from deep.
At the start of the third quarter, Reus scored from the post to give the Lobos the lead. This was followed by a McGruder steal and layup on the fast break. LaTora Duff had a layup followed by her sister hitting a 3-pointer which put the Lobos up 48-40, forcing WTU to call a timeout after opening the third quarter by allowing a 9-point scoring run.
At the end of the timeout, LaTasca Duff put the Lobos up by 11 after sinking two free throws. The Lobos were relentless in the third quarter, up 57-44 at the media timeout with 4:51 left in the quarter. The Lady Buffs were able to put something together toward the end of the quarter, going on a 5-2 run, but the Lobos were still up 62-54 heading into the fourth quarter.
UNM did not slow down with Hannah Robbins scoring seconds into the fourth quarter. The Lobos fouled on consecutive possessions resulting in a total of 9 free throws in the quarter, but McGruder had two layups that prevented WTU from cutting into the lead.
With 4:37 left in the game, the Lobos were up 72-64. The Lady Buffs almost came back into the game, but with timely scoring and forcing turnovers, the Lobos won 84-75. The Lobos shot incredibly efficiently in the fourth quarter, making 9 of their 15 shots.
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After the game, head coach Mike Bradbury commented on the opportunities the exhibition games give them. He also talked about how the team was tested during the game.
“It’s always good to play, in my opinion, a team that’s going to test you. So now we know what we need to do, what we need to work on … I think we were tested everywhere. They were bigger than us which we knew ahead of time; we got beat up on the boards," Bradbury said. "It’s been a problem for a couple years. We got to get better there.”
The team next plays in another exhibition game against Fort Lewis College on Nov. 3 in Albuquerque.
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thomasbulger10