Feb. 26, 2004
Las Vegas, Nev. - Whew! After losing nearly all of a 16-point second-half lead, New Mexico held on to defeat UNLV 59-54, extending the Lobos' winning streak to five games. UNM has won six of seven.
New Mexico snapped a five-game losing streak to the Rebels in Las Vegas while improving to 17-7 overall and 9-2 in the Mountain West Conference. UNM now has a two-game lead over UNLV for second place in the MWC with three games remaining in the regular season. The Rebels fall to 18-6 and 7-4.
The Lobos swept the season series from UNLV for the first time since the 1997-98 season. New Mexico's last three games - all wins - have been decided by a total of nine points.
Staked to a 42-26 lead after senior Melissa Forest scored in the early moments of the second half, sloppy ball-handling nearly doomed the Lobos. Due to a rash of turnovers New Mexico went exactly nine minutes between field goals - both by junior Lindsey Arndt - as the double-digit lead evaporated to just one at 51-50 with 4:13 left.
As she did last week against Utah, sophomore Abbie Letz hit a crucial 3-pointer that provided the Lobos a 56-52 cushion with 2:34 remaining. That baseline jumper turned out to be the difference in the game, although it was far from over.
After Letz missed two free throws, Sheena Moore scored on a follow that cut the Lobo lead to 56-54 with 1:12 to go. Junior Mandi Moore made one of two free throws for UNM, then Letz came up with a crucial steal at the other end. Letz was fouled and drained both free throws to seal New Mexico's first win in Las Vegas since 1998.
The Lobos may have been less than stellar in the second half, scoring just 19 points with 14 turnovers, but the first half was one of their best efforts of the season.
Making nine of their final 10 shots from the floor before the break, the Lobos turned a 16-16 tie into a 40-26 lead at halftime. Freshman point guard Fatima Maddox sparked the burst, scoring 11 points off the bench as the UNM reserves provided 23 points in the first half. Maddox made all four of her attempts from the field, including a 3-pointer, and two free throws.
UNM shot a blazing 61% (17-28) in the first period and committed just four turnovers. Despite making just six baskets in the second half, the Lobos still managed to shoot a season-high 56% (23-41) from the field.
Forest led UNM with 14 points and six rebounds. Mandi Moore finished with 11 as did Maddox. Sheena Moore paced the Rebels with 26 points, but she didn't get much help as UNLV was held to 19 points below its MWC-leading scoring average of 73 points a game.
RanDee Henry, the league's top scorer at 19.3 ppg, finished with 10, while Sherry McCracklin scored just five, nearly 10 points below her average. The Rebels shot just 34% (19-55) from the field, including 2 of 16 from 3-point.
UNLV did hold a 36-27 advantage on the boards, including a whopping 19-4 edge on the offensive end.
The Lobos play their final road game of the regular season Saturday when they visit San Diego State. Game time is 6 p.m. Mountain Time.