Lobo women upset second-place CSU 53-45

NIkki Nelson: 4-4 from the line late to seal win

The UNM women's basketball team produced a terrific defensive effort and hit free throws down the stretch to upset visiting Colorado State 53-45 before an announced crowd of 6,645 at The Pit Wednesday night. The Lobos held the Lad Rams to 6-of-20 (30%) shooting in the second half and 34 percent for the game (17-of-50) and forced 11 second half turnovers to beat the Mountain West's 2nd place team.

New Mexico (9-17, 3-9 MWC) lead b as much as 15 before Colorado St. (12-15, 8-4) rallied to cut the Lobo lead to 45-40 on a Kim Mestdagh three-pointer with 1:33 left in the game. But UNM outscored the Rams 6-2 the rest of the way, all at the free throw line. Senior Nikki Nelson scored four of her 10 points at the line in the final seconds and junior Jame Jackson hit the final two free throws to seal the win.

"Yeah, it is a little nerve-wracking but you try to put that aside and I said a little prayer and gathered myself," said Nelson. "We practice free-throws all the time so it's nice when you can actually get in to a game and be prepared for situations like that."

Caroline Durbin led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting including 3-of-3 on three pointers. Senior Porche Torrance scored 12 points and pulled in seven rebounds while Nelson and junior Jourdan Erskine both finished with 10 points. Erskine pulled in a team high nine boards. Colorado State was paced b Mestdagh and forward Sam Martin, who both scored 15 points.

"It was unbelievable," said head coach Yvonne Sanchez. "We started a big lineup. We had to do that with Lauren Taylor out. When she is cleared to play, that would be great. We had Jourdan Erskine, Porche Torrance, Chinyere Nnaji start. We had 17 offensive rebounds. I think we matched their big lineup very well. I think defensively, we held them to 34 percent shooting and 21 percent from the three. They were three for four from the three so that did not hurt us. I thought they did a terrific job."

After trailing 7-3 early, CSU grabbed the initiative and outscored UNM 13-3 to take a 16-10 lead at the 11:57 mark of the first half. Despite the Rams' physical play, which verged on dirt at times and drew the ire of the partisan Pit crowd, New Mexico kept the game close and eventually surged ahead.

The Lobos took a 23-22 lead on a tip-in by Erskine  and went into halftime with a 26-24 advantage after a tre b Durbin with 26 seconds left in the half.

"Yeah they're a physical team, but a lot of teams in the conference are physical like that, and we've got to play physical right back with them," said Durbin. "I think we did a good job of responding to that tonight."

"I thought the game was physical – I did not see them being dirty," agreed Sanchez. "I just saw them playing hard and they always do. I may have missed a few things. It was like going to Wyoming and beating them. Wyoming is an extremely physical team. We always fought back. We never backed down. I thought tonight was the same things. They tried to post and re-post. Sometimes there was Caroline Durbin on Sam Martin. We battled and battled. I like that grittiness from our team."

Colorado State hit just one field goal in the final 6:35 of the first half and their shooting drought continued into the second half – and the Lobos took advantage. With the Rams misfiring and turning the ball over on the offensive end, New Mexico pushed the lead to 30-25 before CSU finally found range on a Martin jumper with 12:51 left in the half. All told, the Rams went nearly 14 minutes without a field goal.

Martin's jumper cut the lead, giving UNM just a 30-27 lead but the Lobos responded by going on a 15-4 run to take their biggest lead, 45-31 with 6:05 left.

But Colorado St. would not go away, mounting a comeback to cut the lead to 48-42 with 48 seconds left. But UNM hit all six of its late free throws to claim the victory.

"It was great in the second half. We held them under our defensive goal which was great," said Durbin. "The second half I felt like we really boxed out better, didn't give them second chance points, and I thought we talked a lot better. Our goal was 55."

Sanchez said the win says a lot about her team and their perseverance.

"Colorado State has beaten Boise State, TCU, and Wyoming. They have beaten a lot of teams. They were second in conference. They are a team that we can possibly face in the Mountain West Tournament in the first round. That is still far away. It goes to show the kids just keep fighting and keep climbing. They did a terrific job."

 

UNLV 65, UNM 60: In Las Vegas, Nevada, the New Mexico Lobos outscored the UNLV Lady Rebels by four field goals, but the Rebs walked to the line 31 times and knocked down 22 of those unguarded shots to defeat the Lobos 65-60 Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNM was 6-of-12 from the line - outscored by 16 from that stripe - but the stat sheet didn't really lean toward the Lady Rebs in too many areas beside the free-throw line -- and the scoreboard.

"UNLV was more the aggressor," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez, down playing the gap at the line. "They got the ball inside more. Our 16 turnovers were too many and we missed a ton of point-blank shots and layups."

The win gave the Lady Rebels a sweep over UNM for the first time in 10 years. UNM fell down by five points at the half (29-24), but played the Lady Rebs even in the second half.

"We had a chance and we did some really good things," said Sanchez. "The chances were there. We got a little stagnant on offense. We have to learn from this experience."

The Lobos got 19 points from Caroline Durbin and 10 points from Lauren Taylor. Porche Torrance had nine points and nine boards, but was handicapped by foul trouble throughout the game. UNLV was led by Mia Bell with 22 points, Kelli Thompson with 17 points and 6-foot-3 Lenita Sanford with 12 points.

(Courtesy UNM SID)

 

SDSU 57, UNM 44: The Lobo women came alive in the second half but could not overcome a poor first frame, falling 57-44 to the top team in the MWC, San Diego State, on Wed. Feb. 15

The Lady Aztecs held New Mexico to its lowest first-half score on the season. The Lobos logged just 10 first-half points on a combined five baskets by Porche Torrance and Caroline Durbin. This first half stat is the lowest first-half score for New Mexico in several years. UNM turned the ball over 12 times in the first 20, surrendering 11 points off miscues and 10 points off the San Diego fast break.

By halftime, the Aztecs were up 24-10. Clements, the MW's leading scorer, had only two points at the break. Malia Nahinu had 10 points and eight boards for SDSU. Neither team hit a 3-pointer with UNM going 0-of-4 and SDSU going 0-of-2.  However, the Aztecs were going inside or attacking the basket and outscored UNM 18-to-6 in the paint.

In the second half, the Lobos looked like a completely different team. San Diego's offense slowed in the second half as the Aztec bench ran the floor. Meanwhile, it looked as though New Mexico was the team that had replaced its entire starting lineup. After being down as many as 20 points early on in the second half, New Mexico actually won the points battle in the second half, outscoring the Aztecs 34-33 on the half. The Lobos were able to battle back to within six points multiple times, shooting at a 44.8 mark to SDSU's 39.3 percent. UNM also scored 16 points in the paint in the second half to SDSU's 14.

"I felt like they fought and they left everything out in the second half," head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. "There is a reason that San Diego State is number one in our conference. They are very good. I told them the second half score was 33-34 on our side.

"It was a good second half for us. It was something that you don't walk away from this with a bad taste in your mouth. I'm proud of the way they fought in the second half."

Senior Porche Torrance led all scorers with 20 points and pulled in a team-high six rebounds. Caroline Durbin and Lauren Taylor both added eight points. Malia Nahinu scored a team high 16 points for SDSU. (Courtesy UNM SID)

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