Jan. 10, 2013
Wednesday: New Mexico- 57 UNLV-68
Saturday: New Mexico (8-6, 0-1 MW) at Fresno State (9-5, 1-0 MW) at 3 p.m. (MT)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The University of New Mexico women's basketball team was looking for the ultimate restart as they faced UNLV in their Mountain West Conference opener after dropping their final two non-conference games. UNM stumbled out of the gates of the conference season in Las Vegas as a season-high 27 turnovers were the difference in what was a neck-and-neck battle for much of the second half.
"We weren't aggressive, we threw the ball away and you don't win games like that. Committing 27 turnovers is absolutely horrific. We had eight possessions when it was a one-possession game, and we turned it over seven of those eight times. We have got to improve our discipline and get better as a team," Head Coach Yvonne Sanchez commented.
Statistically, New Mexico won the battle of the boards 36 to 32 as both teams recorded 15 assists on 22 made field goals. The game's shooting percentages were also close as UNLV shot 42.3% (42.9% from beyond the arc) to UNM's 40.0% shooting (38.5% from three-point range). Yet the home team had four more points off turnovers while converting ten more points at the line than the Lobos.
New Mexico cut an eight-point halftime deficit to three points with an 11-6 run to open the second half. The Lobos, who never led in the first half, fought their way back and took their first lead of the game with a Caroline Durbin three-pointer with 7:39 left to play. The long-range score was three of Durbin's team-high 16 points as she also tallied five rebounds and two assists.
"I thought Caroline had an excellent game. I thought she was much more relaxed and played as relaxed as she has all season. She let things come to her and played really well," Sanchez said.
Yet the Lobos' hard work throughout the second half would be consistently countered with turnovers. Case in point was the streaky offensive execution that saw New Mexico go 4:04 without scoring following Durbin's go-ahead basket. The Lobos would score on back-to-back possessions in the second half only three times.
"Almost all of our guards had four or more turnovers and that's what you get. We don't deserve to win games when we don't have the discipline you need to win," Coach Sanchez noted.
Even so the Lobos hung around and took their second lead of the game on a Caroline Durbin lob into Deeva Vaughn on a sideline out-of-bounds play, which put UNM up 57-56 with 2:39 remaining. It was a fitting connection as Vaughn was the only other Lobo to score in double figures. She would finish the night with 13 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
However, those two points would be the team's last as the Lady Rebels finished the game with twelve straight points. The final eleven-point margin was the only time UNLV led by ten or more points in the second half.
The 27 New Mexico turnovers marked third game in a row, and sixth game of the season, that the Lobos have committed 20 or more turnovers.
The response from New Mexico coming out of the break was swift and strong. A quick three-pointer from Deeva Vaughn and a transition lay-up by Antiesha Brown forced UNLV's Kathy Olivier to call timeout to stymie UNM's momentum.
Caroline Durbin was a catalyst for the Lobo offense in the second half as she tallied twelve of her 16 points in the final frame. Her three-pointer with 7:39 left in the game gave her team the lead, and her assist to Deeva Vaughn five minutes later gave UNM their second lead.
Down the stretch, it was a one-possession game as UNLV maintained their advantage at the line. The Rebels attempted 16 free throws in the second half and were led by Kelli Thompson at the line. Thompson finished the game 9-10 at the charity stripe including six straight in the final five minutes.
Thompson's late scoring was UNLV's counter to the New Mexico defense clamping down on Alana Cesarz. She was one of six from the field in the second half with two turnovers and only one rebound after scoring a dozen in the first half.
New Mexico was able to shake their early shooting woes by making five of their first seven shots from the field, but that came only after turning the ball over on their first three possessions of the game.
The first half saw UNLV lead by four to eight points for a vast majority of the half. The Lobos were able to use their scoring depth to their advantage in the first half. Eight different Lobos scored the team's twelve first-half field goals, and they recorded nine assists on those twelve made baskets.
Deeva Vaughn led the charge in the first half with eight points and four rebounds on an efficient three of four shooting from the field.
UNLV was 5-9 (55.6%) from beyond the arc in the first half, and they matched that outside scoring with twelve first-half points from forward Alana Cesarz.
The first-half box score showed a pretty even battle including rebounding (advantage UNLV 19-17), second chance points (advantage UNLV 8-7) and bench points (advantage UNM 11-8).