Feb. 15, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- There are two halves to a game of basketball for a reason - because it is amazing the difference that a trip to the locker room can make.
This has never been more apparent for the New Mexico Lobos than it was in Wednesday night's contest, as the Lobos fell 57-44 to the No. 1 team in the Mountain West, the Aztecs of San Diego State.
While Coach Beth Burns' Aztecs didn't chalk up 40 points in the first half as they did on their home court, they held New Mexico to its lowest first-half score on the season. The Lobos logged just 10 first-half points on a combined five baskets by Porche Torrance and Caroline Durbin. This first half stat is the lowest first-half score for New Mexico in several years, and could potentially be the lowest single-half score in program history. UNM turned the ball over 12 times in the first 20, surrendering 11 points off miscues and 10 points off the San Diego fast break.
By halftime, the Aztecs were up 24-10. Clements, the MW's leading scorer, had only two points at the break. Malia Nahinu had 10 points and eight boards for SDSU. Neither team hit a 3-pointer with UNM going 0-of-4 and SDSU going 0-of-2. However, the Aztecs were going inside or attacking the basket and outscored UNM 18-to-6 in the paint.
In the second half, the Lobos looked like a completely different team. No exaggeration.
San Diego's offense slowed in the second half as the Aztec bench ran the floor. Meanwhile, it looked as though New Mexico was the team that had replaced its entire starting lineup. The Lobos were merely working to sub starters with reserves strategically, looking for new combinations of players to convert on some different play calls.
The strategy worked. After being down as many as 20 points early on in the second half, New Mexico actually won the points battle in the second half, outscoring the Aztecs 34-33 on the half. The Lobos were able to battle back to within six points multiple times, shooting at a 44.8 mark to SDSU's 39.3 percent. UNM also scored 16 points in the paint in the second half to SDSU's 14.
The difference was, as Coach Sanchez has preached all year, taking care of the ball. New Mexico finished the game with 14 turnovers, with just two coming in the second half of play. The Lobos logged 14 assists on the game to San Diego's nine, getting some players off the bench into the scoring mix.
Despite logging her fourth foul with over nine minutes to play in the contest, Torrance racked up 14 second-half points. This included seven points in the Lobos' 13-5 run from 7:38 to 4:27, which sliced the Aztec lead to 42-48.
"Porche Torrance was absolutely phenomenal," Sanchez said of Torrance. "That was a kid who was hurt last week. She didn’t practice all last week. She was very limited this week. She was absolutely phenomenal."
"I felt like they fought and they left everything out in the second half," Sanchez said. "There is a reason that San Diego State is number one in our conference. They are very good. I told them the second half score was 33-34 on our side.
"It was a good second half for us. It was something that you don’t walk away from this with a bad taste in your mouth. I’m proud of the way they fought in the second half."
But unfortunately, a late second-half rally was too late for New Mexico. Six points with over four minutes to play was close as New Mexico would come, as San Diego state stifled all Lobo efforts from that point on.
The Aztecs held UNM at 42 points until there were 20 seconds remaining in the game. Jayme Jackson hit the Lobos' last shot of the contest but four Aztec players in Hopkins, Nahinu, Tutt and Stamps put up another nine points to roll to the final 57-44 win.
With Wednesday's loss, New Mexico fell to 8-16 on the season, 2-8 in Mountain West action. The Aztecs meanwhile upped their record to 19-5, 9-1 in conference play. The Lobos will head to UNLV this weekend to take on the Lady Rebels in Saturday's 4:30 p.m. contest.
The Lobos only had two players - Durbin and Torrance - score in the first half. They combined to reach double figures, but just barely as UNM's 10 points was its lowest-scoring half of the season.
The Lobos' defense was OK considering they were looking at arguably the best offense in the Mountain. UNM used both a zone and man-to-man defense in the first half and the Aztecs shot only 33.3 percent. The bad news for UNM was the Lobos shot only 22.7 percent. UNM also was damaged by 12 turnovers, which lead to 11 SDSU points.
The Aztecs didn't waste any time taking advantage of UNM turnovers. SDSU used two UNM miscues to jump up 6-0 at the 18:30 mark. Coach Sanchez had to burn a 30-second time out to settle down her pack. The Lobos then got two buckets inside, one by Durbin and one by Torrance, to pull closer at 6-4. The Aztecs then rolled out seven straight points to take a 13-4 lead.
At the 6:19 media break, SDSU was up 14-8. The Aztecs were shooting a chilly 30 percent from the floor at that point and UNM was colder at 27 percent. The Lobos would score only two points in the final 6:10 of play.
The Aztecs used a UNM turnover to get a layup in transition from Melissa Sweat and then another transition bucket from Ermma Amarikwa to go up 19-8. At a break at the 2:48 mark, SDSU was still up by 11 points, 21-10. UNM was 5-of-19 (26 percent) from the field against an aggressive SDSU defense.
The Aztecs slid into the halftime break up 24-10. Clements, the MW's leading scorer, had only two points at the break. Malia Nahinu had 10 points and eight boards for SDSU.
Neither team hit a 3-pointer with UNM going 0-of-4 and SDSU going 0-of-2. However, the Aztecs were going inside or attacking the basket and outscored UNM 18-to-6 in the paint.
San Diego State put up the first six of the second half, jumping out to a 30-10 lead before Porche Torrance finished an and-one play from the charity stripe for New Mexico. A stop on the other end of the floor led to another two for the Lobos, this time courtesy of Chinyere Nnaji.
Coach Sanchez said that the team's goal was limit San Diego's second chances, and another defensive rebound translated into a layup for Torrance to cut the 20-point lead to 30-17 to the Aztecs. San Diego's Chelsea Hopkins and New Mexico's Jayme Jackson traded baskets to put the score at 32-19 at the 14:54 media break.
Lauren Taylor put the first three on the board for either team with 13:32 left on the clock, but it only worked to chip away at the Aztec's 17 point lead. Nahinu's layup stretched it back to a 36-22 gap, but the Lobos didn't have a lot of opportunities to close it. Fouls on Chairese Culberson and Kiyana Stamps put Durbin and Lauren Taylor on the line, but the combined three points from the stripe only served to cut the lead to 11 (36-14).
A feed from Taylor to Torrance allowed to Lobos to get back within single digits, 36-27, but Torrance followed up with her fourth foul with over nine minutes to play, putting Kalena Tutt on the line to drain both free-throws.
The Lobos continued to battle, as Jayme Jackson netted a jumper to cut the lead to nine again (38-29) but Ahjalee Harvey's three quieted the crowd while two free-throws put the Aztecs back up by 14.
Proving their tenacity again though, New Mexico battled back in the final seven minutes. A layup by Torrance and old-fashioned three-point play by Taylor brought the Lobos within nine again, and Durbin's first three of the ball game cut the lead to six, 43-37, for the first time since 6:50 remained in the first half.
The Aztecs made two foul shots, and Torrance answered with a layup to glimpse the six-point margin again. Torrance continued to showcase, and after an SDSU three by Stamps, Torrance completed a three-point play of her own at the foul line. New Mexico had a chance to cut the lead to four with under four minutes to play, but the Aztecs secured a defensive rebound and converted for two to take a 50-42 lead into the 3:41 media timeout. San Diego state would put seven more points on the board to New Mexico's two to make the final score 57-44.