March 7, 2012
New Mexico Lobo Women's Basketball - At The Mountain West Tournament
Wednesday: New Mexico Lobos 61, UNLV Lady Rebels 58
Friday: 3:35 p.m. (MT) Lobos vs. Boise State
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In a New Mexico Lobo season that might not go down as historic, the Lobos made history in the Las Vegas Thomas & Mack Center - a gym sometimes called "The Pit West" by fans of the Lobo women.
For the first time in the history of the Mountain West Tournament, a No. 7 women's seed beat a No. 2 seed. The Yvonne Sanchez Lobos appeared to be on the ropes and going down when UNLV ran to a 54-45 lead with 7:43 to play.
Instead, the never-say-die Lobos used four consecutive treys to get back on the scoreboard and out played the Lady Rebels down the stretch to grab a 61-58 quarterfinal win that pushes the Lobos into the MW semis. UNM outscored UNLV 16-4 to beat Vegas in its own gym. The win gave UNM double digits in the win column with a 10-19 record. UNLV dropped to 22-9.
The Lobos advance to battle the No. 6 seed Boise State Broncos, who upset No. 3 seed Colorado State 68-63 Wednesday. The other side of the MW bracket pits No. 1 San Diego State against No. 5 Wyoming.
Wednesday was a day of upsets in the Thomas & Mack as San Diego was the only team that avoided an upset. The Aztecs won 68-58 over No. 8 Air Force, which held the lead at the half. Wyoming threw out a mild upset destroying No. 4 TCU, 61-44. The Lobos will force another team to try and beat them for the third time this season. The Broncos swept UNM 65-46 in Idaho and 68-64 in The Pit.
"I told our kids not to get their heads down," said Sanchez of the nine-point hole. "I'm so proud of these kids. They are incredible. This is unbelievable. These kids have worked so hard. This win is for everybody."
Said Lobo senior Nikki Nelson: "It was incredible. It was so much fun. My team never gives up. We pull together and our confidence came as we continued to make shots. It was an amazing experience."
Maybe the key to this game came in the UNM huddle when Sanchez gathered her troops and evaluated the Rebs' nine-point lead by saying the Lobos were only four treys off the pace.
And then Caroline Durbin and Nelson went out and did it as they each hit two bombs.
The fourth bomb, by Durbin, pushed UNM up 57-55, but the teams were tied 57-all with 2:34 to go. It was still a dogfight.
The Lobos went up 59-57 on two free throws by Lauren Taylor and then the Lobos made a huge stop on defense as Vegas turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation. Torrance then scored in traffic off the glass off a feed by Nelson and UNM had a four-point lead going into the final 1:30 of play.
"I told my teammates to keep fighting; we had nothing to lose," said Torrance. "It's hard to beat a team three times in a row. I think we all had confidence tonight and that helped out."
The Lobos didn't score again, but Vegas only added a point, and the Lobo-red section of the Thomas & Mack exploded.
"Our fans our incredible," said Sanchez.
Said Torrance: "Our fans have supported us through adversity, through our ups and downs, and we feed off that."
Torrance paced the UNM win with 20 points and 11 boards with four blocked shots. Nelson had 14 points and three assists. Durbin had 12 points and eight boards and Taylor had 12 points and five assists. The Lobos shot 40.4 percent from the floor and Vegas shot 41.8 percent. UNM went 8-of-14 (57 percent) from long range and UNLV went 2-of-12 (16.7 percent).
The Lobos ended the game with 13 turnovers, but had nine with five minutes to play in the first half and cleaned things up in the second half.
"To only have four in the second half, especially when they were pressing," said Sanchez. "It was incredible energy with our team, confidence, just to run our press breakers, then go down and execute on offense."
The Lady Rebels dominated inside with 34 points in the paint to 20 for UNM.
UNLV got 16 points from Kelli Thompson, 12 from Mia Bell, 11 from Lenita Sanford and 11 from Sandrine Nzeukou. Reb senior Jamie Smith went 0-of-6 from the floor.
"Tournament time is always exciting because anything can happen," said Nelson. "So, our team was just ready. We came out hard and we fought."
Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 30, UNLV Lady Rebels 30
UNLV found a way to improve its shooting - shoot layups. The Rebs worked the ball at the glass early, hard and successfully.
The Lady Rebs came out and scored the first four points of the half to go up 32-31. Torrance scored on a follow and added a free throw to put the Lobos back up 34-32. Vegas then went up 36-34 before Taylor threw in a long trey to form a 37-36 UNM lead. At the 15:58 break, UNLV's Bell scored on a drive to push Vegas up 38-37.
At the 14:07 mark, Bell hit the Rebs' first trey and Vegas had its biggest lead at 45-41. The Rebs continued to attack the glass and the Lobos. Styles scored inside: 47-41. Bell drove on Nelson and kissed a shot off the glass to form a 49-41 lead that Vegas took into the 11:05 media break. The Lady Rebels were on a 9-0 run.
Taylor drove and got fouled at 9:44 and finally got the Lobos' side of the scoreboard to move: 49-43. Vegas attacked again and Thompson went to the line for two: 51-43.
Torrance scored inside for UNM but Thompson came back for Vegas with a long trey that pushed UNLV up 54-45. The Lobos turned it over to take the teams into the 7:43 media break.
The Lobos then made a run. Durbin hit a trey from the left side and Nelson did the same a few ticks later. UNM pulled to 54-51 and Vegas asked for a huddle at 6:25.
Torrance got a block on defense and Nelson came down to launch another trey: 54-all. Durbin hit UNM's fourth straight trey and the Lobos were up 57-55.
"We were down and it was a little bit disheartening," said Nelson. "The phrase 'don't give up,' just kept running through my head. As a team, we rallied. Everyone started hitting. Everyone fed off the excitement and confidence. It was awesome."
Said Sanchez: "We have eight minutes left. There's a lot of possessions left with eight minutes left. We hit a couple of very timely threes." Vegas, which had drifted away a bit from its inside attack, went back inside to the 6-3 Sanford, who scored to form a 57-57 tie.
At the 3:49 media break, the teams were starting even on the scoreboard for the stretch run. The Lobos needed to get Torrance back into the offense.
The score was still locked at 57-all when Coach Sanchez called time at 2:34. Taylor drove and got fouled and converted two from the line: 59-57. Vegas lost the ball on a shot-clock violation. Torrance scored inside off a feed by Nelson. UNM was up four when Bell went to the line with 1:17 to go.
Bell made one and Torrance pulled down the board. UNM was up 61-58. Durbin missed an open trey, but Vegas missed two chances and UNM got the rebound and called time with 33.1 to play. UNM got the ball in and Vegas fouled Taylor.
Taylor missed the one-and-one, but Torrance got the board and kicked it out to Taylor, who had the ball stripped away with 15.4 to play. Vegas had the ball and called for a huddle, down three points.
Vegas got off two 3-point shots, but missed. Lobos win.
"You know, you're happy that you won," said Sanchez. "But we're just not happy to be here. We want to win."
First Half: New Mexico Lobos 31, UNLV Lady Rebels 28
Torrance torched the Lady Rebels for 13 points in the first 20 minutes. Torrance played well, but she also found a lot of open looks on the UNLV interior defense. The Lobos shot 3-of-3 from long range with Nelson knocked down two treys and Taylor one. Nelson had eight points.
The Lobos and the Lady Rebels both made their first shots of the game. Nelson hit a trey for UNM and Vegas scored on a drive. Then both teams missed a bunch before Durbin hit a mid-range jumper. That allowed UNM to go into the first media break up 5-2 and shooting at a 33.3 percent. UNLV was bricking it: 1-of-7 for 14.3 percent.
At the 11:55 time out, the shooting hadn't improved much. UNM was 3-12 and so was UNLV. The Lobos' one point edge came from Nelson's trey. The Lobos had five turnovers at that point and a UNM miscue had UNLV in possession coming out of the break.
That turnover hurt. Vegas scored on the edge to take an 8-7 lead. The Lobos grabbed the lead back at 9-8 on two free throws by Torrance. The Lobos got baskets from Torrance, Taylor (trey) and Nelson to take a 16-14 lead into the 6:56 break. The Lobos were playing well except for eight turnovers.
The game fell into 17-all and 19-all ties before the Lobos threw out a run. Vegas continued to play sloppy defense on Torrance and she scored on the baseline: 21-19. Nelson then hit a trey and UNM got a steal that turned into a Torrance layup and UNM was up 26-19. Vegas burned a time out.
At the 3:21 break, UNM was up 26-21. The Lobos were down four in the turnover battle, 9-5, but up four in the rebound battle, 14-10. Vegas then came back. Taylor missed a one-and-one for UNM and Vegas didn't: 26-23. Torrance missed inside and Vegas scored on a baseline drive. It was 26-25 and UNM called a time.
The Lobos settled down in the final minutes and got two free throws from Taylor and another bucket by Torrance to help UNM grab the 31-28 halftime lead.