New Mexico Lobos Women’s Basketball – In The Pit
Saturday: Fresno State 75, New Mexico 73
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Sara Halasz, it was a game of could haves and should haves – and almosts. For the Lobos, too. New Mexico fell into a monster 14-point hole to the Fresno State Bulldogs and rallied into 71-71 and 73-73 ties.
And then the Bulldogs rolled in a layup with 2.2 seconds to play to escape The Pit with a dramatic 75-73 Mountain West victory.
“Everybody wants a game like that back,” said Halasz. “I felt like we had it, but we came up two points short. Credit Fresno State. They played tough.”
Said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez: “I think our team’s toughness showed at the end. This team rallied and gave us a chance to win. And they did that against a very good team. They (Lobos) fought their way back and the crowd was absolutely fantastic. It was electrifying and it helped us get back in it.”
The Bulldogs fought out of a seven-point hole in the first half, out of a four-point halftime deficit and into a 61-47 lead with 10:08 to play. Fresno was up 69-59 with 4:39 to play. And then the defensive pressure that had bothered UNM most of the first half shifted onto the Bulldogs’ back. The Pit joined in to add more weight.
But UNM could never steal back the lead.
“It comes down to that mental toughness,” said Halasz. “We have to come out ready to play from the jump, whether it’s the first half or the second half. I think the crowd really helped us get back into this game. You couldn’t ask for a better crowd. The crowd was there for us and we thank them for that.”
Said Bryce Owens, who sparked the UNM comeback: “It’s very tough. We’re a team that doesn’t like losing at all. It’s really disappointing.”
The ending was disappointing, for sure. But the resolve the Lobos showed at the end was encouraging. Fresno State was the preseason pick to win the Mountain West regular-season title.
The Lobos and the Bulldogs both had four players in double figures. UNM got 15 from Halasz, 14 from Antiesha Brown, 13 from Khadijah Shumpert and 11 from Bryce Owens. New Mexico shot 55.2 percent in the second half. The Bulldogs, who shot 64 percent in the second half, got 22 points from Alex Furr, 16 from Alex Sheedy, 16 from Bree Farley and 10 from Taylor Thompson.
UNM shot 50.8 percent for the game and crushed Fresno State on the boards 40-21. The Lobos had 19 turnovers to 13 for Fresno, which had 12 steals to five for the Lobos.
Sanchez said the key stretch was UNM coming out of the locker room and turning a lead into a big comeback effort.
“You don’t want to start off that way,” said Sanchez. “We did so much to build that lead and we had some mental breakdowns and some toughness breakdowns. We kept getting down and kept getting down. We worked on that press for two days and then we had some people who froze. We kind of fell apart.
“We got ourselves into a position where you have to dig yourself back into the game. I give the players a lot of credit. They (Fresno) just happened to hit the last shot. We didn’t stop it. We fell short by two points. It’s disappointing and this one is going to be disappointing for a couple of days.”
It was a big win for Fresno State. The Pit is a tough place for a visitor to find a win. The Pit victory pushed the Bulldogs to 5-1 and keeps them on top of the Mountain West standings. UNM slips to 2-3 after its first home loss in MW action. UNM is 7-9 overall.
Second Half: Fresno State 43, New Mexico 37
The Lobos came out of the half up four points, but quickly fell behind 47-40. Fresno was shooting 75 percent from the floor to open the half – 6-of-8. UNM was 1-of-5. The Bulldogs’ press was still effective and the ‘Dogs got more aggressive in attacking the basket. At the 10:34 mark, Fresno was up 59-47 after a spinning post move by Alex Sheedy.
Fresno was up 62-50 before Owens hit UNM’s first trey of the game at the 7:39 mark which cut Fresno State’s lead to 62-53 going into the media break at 7:12.
The Bulldogs drifted up 69-59 on a layup by 6-6 Vandenberg. The Lobos needed to change the rhythm of the game. They did it at the 3:57 mark by cutting Fresno’s lead to 69-63 off inside buckets by Shumpert and Halasz. The Lobos continued to change things.
The Lobos trapped Thompson on a press and the Fresno senior threw the ball right to Owens, who raced to a layup and a 69-65 score. The Bulldogs got two more back at the line: 71-65.
UNM got a stop and Owens drove in to kiss one off the glass: 71-67. UNM got another stop and UNM called time at 2:03, still down 71-67. Owens hit another jumper: 71-69. Fresno called time at 1:32.
“Bryce is a good player and she did a lot of good things,” said Sanchez. “She took over the game not only hitting a couple of jump shots, but rallying the team. When the ball is in Bryce’s hands, it’s a good thing.”
Fresno State came out of the huddle and got exactly what they wanted – an uncontested layup for Thompson. She missed it. Brown came down and hit a jumper for the Lobos to knot the game at 71-all. The Pit was going wild and the Bulldogs still looked shaky. Fresno went to another timeout at 56.8.
The ‘Dogs’ worked the ball inside and Sheedy scored. UNM’s Owens again produced with a drive off a jumper to form another tie: 73-73. UNM called time with 20.6 ticks to play with Fresno in possession. Owens had scored eight of UNM’s last 12 points.
Fresno’s Farley drove from the top of the key all the way to the rim and rolled in a layup with 2.2 to play. It held up for the 75-73 Fresno State win.
First Half: New Mexico 36, Fresno State 32
The Lobos led from jump to buzzer but could never quite pull away from the pressing Bulldogs. UNM sometimes broke the press for open shots and sometimes turned it over – 10 times in the half. UNM shot well at 46.7 percent and got double figures from Antiesha Brown and Sara Halasz, who each had 10 points. Deeva Vaughn added eight. Kianna Keller had six boards and four blocked shots. She had two other blocks that were nullified by referee whistles.
Fresno got a surprise 14 points from Alex Furr off the bench, who went 5-of-6 from the floor and 3-of-4 from long range. Fresno State went 4-of-12 from 3-point range and UNM went 0-of-2 on the long shot. UNM ruled the boards 25 to 13, but the Bulldogs had eight steals to one for UNM.
Both teams shot 30 times from the floor with UNM making 14 and Fresno State knocking down ten. UNM went 8-of-9 from the free-throw line and Fresno State went 8-of-10.