New Mexico goes home early after SDSU pulls upset

Joe Auletta

Lots of good things torpedoed by a couple wretched ones.
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, the #2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament, couldn’t hold on to a double-digit lead and ended the night falling 70-61 to the #7 San Diego State Aztecs in overtime.

Photo By Cameron Goeldner/The Daily Lobo @Goeldfinger

The biggest question going into the game was clear—how would Jayla Everett and Jayden de la Cerda handle the ball, especially if the Aztecs pressed. There were a few passes that went a little awry—mostly high—but for the most part ball control was not a problem. The Lobos only committed 17 turnovers—not great, but not horrible.
Defensively they were very good—contesting almost every shot, and holding the Aztecs to 32% shooting from the field. And several of those baskets were after a defensive stop rolled around and landed in a SDSU player’s hands for a put-back. Until the last five minutes of regulation and the overtime, the Lobos were shooting decently—overall. They certainly got a lot more good looks, mostly from some good ball movement.
The Lobo’s best player, and MWC player of the year, Jaisa Nunn certainly did her part with 24 points and 19 rebounds. She missed a few more shots than usual, but still hit 8 or 16 shots. And her running mate at the post, Nike McClure, added a pleasant but unexpected 8 points to go with 11 rebounds in 28 minutes, and good defense on Mallory Adams who had killed Air Force the night before.

All these things let the Lobos lead almost the entire game, though they never put it out of reach. They led by 6 to 10 points most the game, and opened a 13 point lead in the third quarter. Naje Murry kept the Aztecs in contact with 16 points in the first half. Ahlise Hurst covered her more in the second half, and held her to 6, for a team high total of 22. But the switch to shut off Mallory left Tea Adams and Sophia Ramos with more opportunities, and they heated up in the second half and finished with 18 and 20 respectively. This, even more than protecting the ball on offense, was where Aisia Robertson’s presence was missed. An all-MWC defensive player, it would have given the Lobos one more perimeter defender against SDSU’s multitude of scoring guards.
But then there were those other couple things. While the Lobo posts had 30 rebounds between them, the rest of the team was not keeping up their end on the boards, or in keeping the smaller SDSU team off the boards. San Diego State had a huge 15 rebound advantage, and with a small turnover advantage got off 15 more shots than the Lobos. Freshman Mallory Adams had 16 boards, six of them offensive. As a team, SDSU had 25 offensive boards, and as the game went on, the rebounding advantage kept getting more obvious.
Even with that, there were enough good things to overcome the rebounding deficiency. Nike and Jaisa defended most the inside shots well, and clogged the driving lanes until everyone seemed to slow a step late in the game. Four starters for each team played 37+ minutes. But the rebounding shortfall was NOT the only problem.
The Lobos got lots of open long range shots—29 of them to be precise. They just didn’t make very many. Jaedyn made three of them in the first half. And missed ten for the game, for a 23% success rate. Not very good, in truth, but the team would have been very happy with that kind of shooting overall. The rest of the team was a frigid 0 for 16. Had everyone else hit 23%, the Lobos would have won going away. But they didn’t. Outside shooting has been inconsistent for UNM all season, and today was as down a shooting day as they have had.
A very good season may now be over, though staying alive in the WNIT is a distinct possibility. If Boise wins the tournament, the Lobos qualify for an automatic WNIT spot, and have a good chance—but not a sure thing—even if Boise does not win.