A little pressure all over the court made a big difference for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team on Tuesday night.
Level with hosts Nicholls State at halftime, the Lobos turned to full pressure in the third quarter and immediately took control on their way to a 72-55 win in Thibodaux, Louisiana. UNM reeled off 16 straight points early in the third quarter and drove the momentum to their third straight win.
New Mexico (4-3) hasn’t often used undue defensive pressure this season, but coach Mike Bradbury said it was part of Tuesday’s game plan.
“We wanted to press in the first half but we never really had a good opportunity,” Bradbury said in a post-game phone interview. “In the third quarter we took the first dead ball and I think it surprised[the Colonels]a bit. We got a few steals, stayed in and it made us play with a lot more energy.
Three players — LaTascya Duff, Shaiquel McGruder and Amaya Brown — contributed the bulk of the scoring charts for UNM, collectively scoring 50 of the Lobos’ 72 points. Duff posted a game high with 20 points and hit six 3-pointers while McGruder and Brown used the Lobos’ defensive pressure effectively in the second half.
McGruder amassed 15 points and 14 rebounds, excelled in transition and converted into the post. Brown had a stat-sheet-filling performance with 15 points, seven rebounds (five offense), five steals, three assists and one block.
“Amaya was really good,” Bradbury said. “She played great defense and started pounding the offensive boards in the second half. That was a big key for us.”
UNM have often struggled on the boards this season and did so again in Tuesday’s first half. Nicholls State (3-5) had a 24-20 rebound advantage at halftime and 15 second chance points.
The Lobos turned the tables in the second half, ending the game with a 40-38 rebound advantage and not allowing second-chance points in the final two quarters.
UNM led most of the first half and led 28-21 in the second quarter after a driving Duff layup at 4:04. But the Colonels ended the half with a 9-2 run and tied Amelia Sandie’s fast-break layup just before the buzzer.
Sandie led Nicholls State with 17 points, but 15 of those came in the first half.
McGruder and Brown started UNM’s momentum-changing run in the third quarter, grabbing three steals and 11 points during the Lobos’ 16-0 tear. New Mexico led 55-41 after three quarters and held a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
UNM got a spark from sophomore Aniyah Augmon, who returned after missing three games through illness. However, the Lobos were still short-handed as Jaelyn Bates was out with an ankle injury sustained in training and Viané Cumber missed the second half with a leg soreness. Mackenzie Curtis (concussion record) missed a fourth straight game.
The Lobos’ next three games will be at home, beginning Sunday at 1:00 p.m. with a matchup against No. 14 Arizona in the pit.