Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos fall 69-66 in MW tourney
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/10/2014

New Mexico Lobos Women’s Basketball At Reese’s Mountain West Tournament

Monday: Utah State 69, New Mexico 66

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Jennifer Schlott factor probably was exactly what was expected Monday in the Thomas & Mack.  The Mountain West’s leading scorer hit 29 points vs. New Mexico.

However, the X factor in the Lobos’ 69-66 first-round loss to Utah State in the Mountain West Tournament had a sting full of irony.

Stephanie Bairstow -- sister of Lobo men’s star Cameron Bairstow -- tied her career high with 16 points and hit what proved to be the winning basket when she put the Aggies up 67-63 with 3:31 to play.

“She lives in her brother Camerons' shadow. I have been joking with her a lot lately: 'Play a little bit more like Cameron,'” said Utah State Coach Jerry Finkbeiner. “Steph came out and played like her brother.  Her big brother is her idol.  If I ever want to challenge Steph, I say: ‘What would Cameron do?’”

 Well, Cameron would hit big shots and that’s what little sister did Monday in Vegas.  She was money.

“She’s a good player,” said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. “She played the way I feel she can play. She hit some good shots.  She’s smart.

“She hit a couple of really big shots when she needed to.”

The Lobos went into Season Three – the postseason – looking to change things around from the Mountain West regular season and get a finish and a win.  The Lobos didn’t get it and ended their season 11-19. Utah State moves on to play Colorado State, the No. 1 seed and the MW regular-season champion.

The Lobos held the lead throughout the game until Utah State went up 53-52 and never looked back.  Well, at least never looked back on the scoreboard.  The Lobos made a final charge and had a look at a game-tying trey in the closing seconds.

UNM had the ball with 22.1 ticks to go and down 69-66. The Lobos worked the perimeter for a 3-pointer, but Antiesha Brown ended up throwing up an off-balance trey with two seconds to play.  It fell harmlessly short.

“We drew up the play with a couple of 3-point options and we just didn’t execute,” said Lobo assistant Anthony Turner.  “When we missed the first option, we didn’t see the second option and that kind of put us in a panic.”

Said Sanchez:  “It was just a mistimed play. It just didn’t work out.  We just didn’t take a very good shot there at the end. I think they might have panicked a little bit and jacked up the three.  We just didn’t get it done.”

The Aggies looked like they might pull away at the end, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and then had a huge turnover (offensive foul) that led to a Deeva Vaughn trey with 44 seconds to play.  That made the score 69-66.  Schlott drove and missed with 22 seconds to play and UNM had its shot at producing overtime.

“It’s a play (designed) specifically for a 3-point shot,” Vaughn said of UNM’s final shot. “Communication just didn’t flow like it should have.”

The Lobos also lost the offensive flow from the first half that pushed them to 48 points off 58.6 percent shooting.  UNM shot 22 percent in the second half and scored 18 points.

“You have to go take it and the bottom line is at the start of the second half, we didn’t go take it,” said Coach Turner.

Said Halasz:  “We didn't come out the first four minutes ready to play.  That's been our Achilles' Heel every game we've come into.”

Utah State said it got a lot of momentum from a four-point play that ended the first half and pulled the Aggies four points closer to UNM. Makenlee Williams hit a base-line trey and added a free throw.

“That four-point play at the end of the half really helped us,” said Finkbeiner.  “We were struggling. We got a new lease on life.”

The Lobos started the second 20 minutes up 48-44, but the Aggies slowly pulled into a 53-52 lead with 13:25 to play. A Bairstow layup made it 65-57 with 7:23 to play.  Utah State scored only four points the rest of the way in, but that was enough.

“We’ve talked about the first four minutes of the second half a lot,” said Coach Turner.  “We thought we had it figured out. We said the same thing at halftime again today. When you win that first four minutes, you put them in catch-up mode.”

It was the Lobos who went into catch-up mode and almost did it.  Almost.

“We just didn’t finish it out,” said Sanchez.  “It’s a tough game.”

Schlott led all scorers with 29 followed by UNM's Vaughn with 17 and Bairstow with 16.  Lobos Brown and Khadijah Shumpert each had 13 for UNM followed by Halasz with 12 points.  Shumpert and Vaughn had eight rebounds and Halasz added seven boards. UNM had 19 turnovers. 

UNM shot 41 percent for the game and Utah State shot 47 percent.  UNM shot 22.2 percent in the second half.  “That’s attributed to us settling for jump shots instead of going inside,” said Sanchez. “We went away from what we wanted to do.”

Second Half:  Utah State 25, New Mexico 18

The Lobos scored 30 points fewer than they did in the first half and Utah State’s total went from 44 to 25.  It made for a good finish, but not a real pretty half of basketball.

The Lobos come out of the locker room up 48-44 and at the first media break that lead had dwindled to a single point: 52-51. The Aggies took their first lead of the game at 53-52 and drifted away to 65-57. Coach Sanchez called time at 7:12 – down eight.

The Lobos fought back.  At the 3:31 mark, UNM was down 65-62. Schlott had hit a cold spell and UNM was aggressively attacking the Utah State zone.  Halasz came out of the UNM huddle to hit a single free throw and UNM was two down: 65-63.

Bairstow scored for Utah State to make it 67-63.  UNM turned it over which led to an Aggie layup: 69-63.  UNM missed and then fouled trying to get Utah State into the one-and-one.  The clock went from 1:33 to 1:14 and UNM finally put Bairstow at the line. She missed the front end of a one-and-one. UNM missed at the other end and the Aggies got a huge defensive rebound which put UNM in a fouling situation with Schlott bringing down the ball.

However, Utah State’s Makenlee Williams ran into Brown and UNM got the ball.  Vaughn hit a three and Schlott missed on a drive.  UNM had the ball with 22.1 ticks to go – down 69-66.  Brown missed the trey.

First Half:  New Mexico 48, Utah State 44

It was a run-and-gun first half which was supposed to favor Utah State, the MW’s top scoring team led by the league’s top scorer, but it was New Mexico that ran to 48 points and a four-point lead.

The Aggies got 19 first-half points from Schlott and Utah State ended the half with a four-point play that cut into UNM’s 48-40 lead.  The Lobos countered with 11 points from Brown, 11 from Vaughn, eight from Shumpert and seven from Halasz. 

The Lobos shot a sizzling 59 percent from the floor and Utah State wasn’t far behind at 56 percent.  UNM outscored the Aggies by six from the free-throw line 11-of-17 to 5-of-8.  UNM also dominated the glass 20-to-11.

The Lobos got a 3-point shot from Brown and a 3-point play from Vaughn to take a quick 6-2 lead.  At the first media break at 15:37, UNM was up 13-9.  At the 12:35 mark, the teams were starting fresh at 17-all. 

Halasz got a steal and a layup that followed a Brown jumper and UNM was up 23-19 at a timeout at 10:54.  UNM used some inside muscle from Shumpert and Vaughn  and a 3-pointer by Owens to race to a 32-21 lead. At the 7:29 stop, UNM was up 34-25 off a Chavez layup.

Utah State – mostly Schlott – started chiseling into that UNM lead. At the 3:48 break it was 41-38 in UNM’s favor but the MW’s leading scorer had 17 points.  Brown had 11 for UNM.

The Lobos went up 48-40 before Utah State used its four-point play to form the 48-44 halftime score.