Jaisa Nunn picked a perfect time for a record-setting performance.
Nunn poured in a program-record 39 points including a three-point play with 1.8 seconds remaining and the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team upset No. 16 Marquette 88-87 in a Monday night thriller at the Pit.
With the Golden Eagles leading 87-85, UNM’s Cherise Beynon drove the baseline and tried a contested shot with 3 seconds left. The ball bounced off the rim, Nunn grabbed it, hit the putback and was fouled as the crowd roared. She calmly hit the go-ahead free throw, and the Lobos and fans celebrated when Marquette’s Allazia Blockton missed a turnaround jumper at the buzzer.
It was UNM’s first win over a ranked opponent since a 2010 victory over SMU.
“Now that’s a basketball game!” elated Lobo coach Mike Bradbury said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. Marquette played well but they wouldn’t back down. Really a great effort.”
Nunn was simply unstoppable as the Lobos (2-0) managed to outrun the Golden Eagles — a team unanimously picked to win the Big East this season — in front of an announced 4,169 delirious fans. The 6-foot-3 junior post went 14-of-15 from the field, 11-of-12 from the foul line and grabbed 13 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Her 39 points eclipsed the single-game record of 35 points set by Yvonne McKinnon in 1982.
“That was as great a single-game performance as I’ve coached,” Bradbury said of Nunn’s big night. “I had no idea she had 39 points and 13 boards, but I’m glad it wasn’t 37 and 13 because that wouldn’t have been enough. Jaisa was terrific.”
Nunn just smiled when asked where the game ranked on her personal highlight list.
“That was the funnest game I’ve ever played,” she said. “I’ll remember that one for a long time.”
So will the fans who turned out to watch UNM overcome an early 12-point deficit and some clutch long-range shooting by the Golden Eagles (0-1). Marquette hit 13 3-pointers in the contest to UNM’s two.
But the Lobos got the better of things inside, attacking the basket to great effect. Freshman Jasmine Smith came off the bench to score 17 points in 33 minutes after senior Alex Lapeyrolerie got in early foul trouble. Smith played 2 minutes and did not score in UNM’s opener against Western Michigan.
“We wouldn’t have won without her,” Bradbury said. “If you’d have told me Jasmine Smith would lead the team in field-goal attempts tonight (18), I wouldn’t have guessed we’d have this outcome. She really gave us some energy.”
Marquette seemed to have all the energy early, hitting 3-pointers on each of its first three possessions to grab a 9-0 lead. Freshman Lauren Van Kleunen later drained the first of her five 3-pointers to give the Golden Eagles their largest lead at 26-14. Van Kleunen finished with a team-high 23 points.
But the Lobos quickly showed they were ready to battle. Nunn, Smith and N’Dea Flye scored consecutive baskets, and Tesha Buck banked in a long 3-pointer to beat the first-quarter buzzer with Marquette leading 29-23.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment of the night came late in the first quarter when UNM switched from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 half-court zone. Though Marquette burned it with occasional 3’s, the defense helped the Lobos turn the game’s momentum.
“It wasn’t anything strategic,” Bradbury said, “it was out of necessity. We couldn’t guard them man to man. We knew they might hit some 3’s — and they did — but at least the zone out of the paint and gave us a chance.”
UNM trailed 46-42 at halftime and grabbed its first lead of the night on a driving bank-shot by Flye with 36 seconds left in the third quarter. Beynon capped a 10-0 run with a driving layup to start the fourth quarter, giving the Lobos a 68-63 lead.
The margin grew to seven points before Marquette bounced back with an 8-0 run midway through the fourth. The teams then traded blows until Natisha Heideman’s 3-pointer tied the score at 85 with 1:43 left.
Both teams missed chances to take the lead but the Golden Eagles got a break when Van Kleunen was awarded two free throws after stumbling into a pile-up of players with 13 seconds left. Her free throws gave Marquette an 87-85 lead.
It set the stage for Nunn’s heroics.
“That was the play,” Nunn said. “Cherise was going to drive and shoot and I told myself, ‘If she misses, I have to get the rebound.’ Seeing that (putback) go in was a pretty great feeling.”
BEYNON HONORED: Beynon was named Mountain West Player of the Week earlier Monday after her near triple-double (24 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) in UNM’s 88-76 win over Western Michigan on Friday. It was Beynon’s first career player of the week honor.