Jan. 16, 2013
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
Back home in The Pit for the first time in more than a month, the University of New Mexico women's basketball team rediscovered its winning mojo in the second half of its first Mountain West home game of the season.
The Lobos turned up the defense, turned down the turnovers and turned to Antiesha Brown down the stretch to rally past Boise State 58-53 on Wednesday night, ending a four-game losing streak.
Brown, playing her first collegiate game in the Pit, hit a critical jumper and later a critical free throw in the final minute en route to a career-high 16 points in leading UNM (9-7, 1-2 MW) to its first conference victory this season. Whitney Johnson came off the bench to score a career-high 14 points.
Brown, a Clovis native who transferred from Texas Tech, did not become eligible to play for the Lobos until after the first semester.
"Antiesha Brown, what a homecoming," New Mexico coach Yvonne Sanchez said of the sophomore who went 7-of-13 from the floor with five rebounds. "She also had a big steal for us early in the second half. I thought that was great."
The game was the Lobos' first at home since Dec. 8, ironically in a 58-53 loss to Arizona. They played five straight on the road after that, losing the last four after a 68-44 win at New Mexico State on Dec. 18.
"It's nice to come back home and give our fans a win," Sanchez said. "Our fans care; they're the best in the country. The fans gave us a lot of energy. ... To give them a win and have them see our kids play, that gives me enjoyment."
The Lobos trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half and six points at the half but played much better in front of 5,935 home crowd fans in the final 20 minutes. They shot 12-of-21 from the floor (57.1 percent) in the second half and held the Broncos (8-7, 1-1) to 7-of-31 shooting from the field (22.6 percent).
UNM, whose turnovers contributed heavily to their four-game losing streak coming into the game, finished with 21 miscues but only nine in the second half.
New Mexico had a seemingly comfortable 52-44 lead on a Bryce Owens layup with 3:48 left, but Boise State scored the next five points, Erica Martinez's third 3-pointer of the game making the score 52-49 with 1:09 left in the game.
After a Lobo timeout, Owens found Brown for a 15-foot jumper with 52 seconds left to push the lead back up to five.
After a Broncos basket cut the lead back to 54-51, Brown hit the second of two free throws to make it a two-possession game. Owens hit a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds left to ice the game.
The Lobos played most of the first half as if they were still strangers to the Pit. Boise State's Brandi Benton scored six of her 12 points on a pair of 3-pointers that capped a 15-4 run to give the Broncos a 28-15 lead.
The Lobos finished the first half on a 9-2 run that gave the home team some momentum heading into the locker room at intermission. Johnson scored four of her eight first-half points to fuel the UNM surge that trimmed the deficit to 30-24.
"The last three minutes of the first half, we really started showing and playing better and working together," Sanchez said. "Our offense was still out of sync, and we get that way, but the last three minutes, we really started looking like we're jelling together.
"Then, I thought the first four minutes of the second half, we started off really strong. We were starting to win those four-minute segments and took the lead.
UNM opened the second half with a 6-2 run to cut a 30-24 halftime deficit to 32-30 at the first media timeout, which was the closest it had been to the Broncos since the 10:56 mark of the first half.
The Lobos took their first lead of the second half on a Johnson layup that Owens assisted to give them a 40-39 advantage with 10:26 left in the game.
Caroline Durbin was fouled attempting a 3-pointer after a Khadijah Shumpert steal and hit all three free throws to push the lead to 43-39. Shumpert, playing more minutes because of the absence of starting Deeva Vaughn, who missed the game because of a lingering foot injury, added a layup to give the Lobos a 45-41 lead with 7:42 left.
Sara Halasz hit a 3-pointer, and Johnson and Owens each scored on a layup to push the lead to 52-44.
Johnson was 7-of-8 from the floor in taking up more minutes for the injured Vaughn as well. She added five rebounds.
Owens finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists. Halasz had five points, six rebounds and five assists.
"Welcome back, Sara," Sanchez said. "We're going to need her to make a run in this conference."
UNM could've iced the game sooner but hit just 4 of 10 free throws in the final five minutes of the game. The Lobos, who are last in the conference in free throw shooting at 59.9 percent, were 10-of-18 (55.5 percent) Wednesday night.
Lauren Lenhardt led the Boise State with 13 points but shot just 5-of-16 from the field. Martinez finished with nine points, all on 3-pointers.
Turnovers again were the reason the Broncos left Bob King Court with the halftime lead. The Lobos committed 12 turnovers, compared to just four for the visitors. It was the fifth straight game that UNM had turned over the ball at least a dozen times in the opening half.
The Lobos shot a respectable 10-of-24 in the first 20 minutes (41.7 percent) and outrebounded the Broncos 19-14.
Boise State hit 12-of-31 from the field (38.7 percent) in the half.
The Lobos now have a week off before they get ready to head back out on the road to play Colorado State next Wednesday.