Nov. 16 – LAS CRUCES – For most of three quarters Tuesday night, southern New Mexico felt like a desert for the UNM women’s basketball team.
Then everything changed.
What had been a piece of cake for host New Mexico State suddenly became a dogfight. UNM stormed back from a 28-point deficit to force overtime but couldn’t quite escape the enormous hole. Soufia Inoussa hit a pair of 3-pointer daggers in overtime and NMSU picked up a wild 73-64 win at the Pan American Center.
Inoussa finished the tournament 14 points clear of Aggies (2-1) by first-year coach Jody Adams, who dominated the first 28 minutes but almost watched things run away in the last 12 minutes. LaTora Duff led four players by double digits with 13 points for the Lobos (1-2), who overcame nearly three-quarters of dismal shooting.
UNM (1-2) never led the game but equalized five times in the fourth quarter and overtime. Both teams had shots for the lead in the last minute of the regulations – UNM’s Shaiquel McGruder missed a short jumper that rolled over the rim and fell off with 32 seconds left and NMSU’s Molly Kaiser hit the back iron with 3 seconds left.
But UNM’s wild rally seemed to run out of legs in overtime as Inoussa’s 3-pointers helped NMSU finally pull away and go on an eight-game losing streak against their I-25 rivals.
Lobos coach Mike Bradbury praised his team’s comeback but wasn’t at all happy with the overall performance.
“I think we lacked the energy and focus,” he said. “If you don’t work hard enough to get a good shot, sometimes a pass, sometimes no pass, not very many are going to go in.”
The state of New Mexico has also had its share of droughts. The Aggies went only 3-to-12 in the fourth quarter with five turnovers to help the Lobos’ comeback. The home side also missed 11 free throws as a rule.
But NMSU regained its form in overtime, hitting 5 of 8 from the field and all four of its free throws.
“(The Aggies) surpassed us,” Bradbury said afterwards. “Believe them. I don’t know everything we need to fix, but I’ll watch the video on the bus. I’ll know when we get home.”
The first half couldn’t have been much worse for the Lobos, who missed almost everywhere. UNM was a stone-cold 1-on-14 off the field in the first quarter, with Amaya Brown’s knight leaving the only breakthrough at 6:15.
NMSU, meanwhile, started the field 9-for-19 and got a pair of 3s from Ashlee Strawbridge and Fama Thiam to lead 20-2.
The Aggies led 32-13 at halftime and appeared to have put things ahead 44-16 with a 12-0 run midway through the third quarter.
UNM then turned to full court to lock in the defense to get back in and did just that. A steal and layup by Shaiquel McGruder put a 44-27 deficit after three quarters and the Lobos beat the Aggies in the fourth quarter with 30-13.
LaTora and LaTascya Duff hit 3-pointers during the surge to pull UNM to a point at 51-50, and McGruder later connected it with a breakaway layup with 52. McGruder finished the tournament with 11 points and eight rebounds while Amaya Brown added 11 points and seven boards for UNM.
Kaiser finished with 12 points for the Aggies, who overtook the Lobos 44-33 and topped them in the paint 40-28.
Box score: New Mexico State 73, UNM 64
SUNDAY: State of Arizona, New Mexico, 2 p.m., 610 p.m./95.9 FM