Feb. 9, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico Lobos were looking to avenge an earlier loss to UNLV (9-14, 5-4 MW) in the two teams' Saturday afternoon matchup. With a frenzied 6,767 fans in The Pit for the annual Play 4Kay/Think Pink game, New Mexico dropped a heartbreaking 58-57 decision.
"What a great game for the fans. I mean that was a terrific game," head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. That's the kind of games you get with us and UNLV right now. They've got young kids, and we got young kids. I thought some of our older kids played okay, and I thought shot selection with some of them was questionable, especially at the end when we had some open shots. But that was just a real good game."
The Lobos (12-10, 4-5 Mountain West) struggled to slow UNLV's Kelli Thompson, the conference's leading scorer, who tallied 29 points against UNM on Saturday. Thompson nearly became the first Lobo opponent to score 30 points in a conference game since Erin Thorn scored 31 points for BYU on February 3, 2001.
New Mexico looked to be clicking on all cylinders as it built its lead to 55-49 with 5:16 remaining in the game. For the second time this season, however, UNLV (9-14, 5-4) would close the game on a run to secure a victory. UNLV used a 9-2 run in the final 5:16 to close out Saturday's game in The Pit. The Rebels' late-game run mimicked how they ended their game with the Lobos earlier this year. UNLV used a 12-0 run in the final 2:39 in Las Vegas to pick up a 68-57 victory in January.
Whitney Johnson led all Lobos with 12 points. She was joined by Caroline Durbin who scored 10 points while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists. That duo saw support from Bryce Owens who finished the day with eight points, six rebounds and six assists. It was the seventh time this season she's recorded five or more assists.
"We had 38 points in the paint, and that's what we wanted to do," Sanchez said. "We wanted to establish that inside, and we had 15 second-chance points. However, this has been our Achilles' heel all season long; we are not getting to the free throw line enough."
UNLV was 13 of 16 (81.7 percent) from the charity stripe to just 4 of 6 (66.7 percent) for the Lobos. Kelli Thompson herself was 10 of 11 (90.9 percent) from the charity stripe.
The opening segment of the second half mirrored the early action of the first half. It was another neck-and-neck game as neither side led by more than four points for the first eight minutes of the second half.
The Lobos were the first team to take a lead of five or more points when Caroline Durbin buried a jump shot with 9:27 to play at 48-43. Thompson would hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for the Rebels to cut the lead back down to two points.
Thompson spearheaded UNLV's final surge. She hit back-to-back 3s in less than a minutes to tie the game at 55-55 with 3:49. Thompson scored eight of her team's final nine points.
Despite the quick barrage of 3s from Thompson, New Mexico responded with a Johnson post bucket to retake the lead at 57-56 with 1:36 remaining in the game. Thompson clinched the victory for the Rebels when she gathered her own miss and drew a foul with 11 seconds left. The senior calmly buried the two free throws as the Lobos looked to answer with a full-court attack.
Bryce Owens drove down the sideline and found herself ahead of the pack. She drove all the way to edge of the paint and looked for the game-winning shot off the backboard, but it bounced off the front of the rim and was tipped out ahead by UNLV as time expired.
The first half was played as tight aa the 35-35 halftime score would indicate. Neither team led by more than seven points as the two teams exchanged six leads and tied the game on six different occasions. The two teams overcame a slow start to score the combined 70 points at halftime. Both teams shot 33.3 percent or worse through the first eight minutes before picking it up as the half went on.
UNLV would hold onto a lead or keep the game tied for a majority of the first half. New Mexico, after trailing by as many as seven points in the first half, got back into the game by winning the final 10 minutes of the half 20-13.
All five starters for Sanchez would score in the first half, and Caroline Durbin led the Lobos with eight first-half points. UNLV's Kelli Thompson, the conference's leading scorer, tallied 14 of her team's 35 first-half points.