LAS CRUCES — Saturday morning shootout, anyone?
The Rio Grande rivalry, women’s basketball edition, turned into a high-scoring thriller with 26 3-pointers, 10 lead changes and 194 points on the Pan American Center scoreboard. When the dust finally settled, the University of New Mexico Lobos and their undefeated record were still standing.
Cherise Beynon scored 30 points and swished the game’s biggest shot — a long, shot clock-beating 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining — and the Lobos pulled out a 101-93 victory over very game New Mexico State in a wild morning matinee contest.
Beynon’s big shot came with UNM clinging to a 94-91 lead. The Aggies played tight defense, including on Beynon, who ended up dribbling to her right around a defender and launching a 25-footer as the buzzer sounded. Beynon, who went 6-for-8 from long range in the game, hit nothing but net.
“I was having a good shooting day,” Beynon said, “so I was confident. But really the main goal was just to get it to the rim. Seeing it go in felt great.”
Lobos coach Mike Bradbury felt the same way.
“New Mexico State did a good job defending us and really kind of blew up our play,” he said. “That’s when it’s nice to have the best player on the floor. There were whole lot of shots made today but that was the biggest one.”
N’Dea Flye scored a career-best 25 points for UNM, which matched the best start in program history by improving to 9-0. The Lobos survived a monster game by NMSU’s Gia Pack, who led all scorers with a career-high 33 points. Brooke Salas added 20 points for the Aggies (2-5).
“We had zero answers for those two,” Bradbury said of Pack and Salas. “And the defense wasn’t as bad as the score indicates on either side. That was just high-level offensive basketball and a terrific ballgame.”
The tone was set in the first quarter when Beynon netted a last-second 3 to give UNM a 32-29 lead. The Lobos hit eight 3-pointers in the quarter (four by Beynon, three by Flye) but they were barely enough to hold a lead against Pack and the Aggies.
Pack, Salas and Zaire Williams combined to hit four consecutive 3s in the second quarter as NMSU took a 46-42 lead. But the Lobos finished the half on a 10-2 run that included a long Tesha Buck 3-pointer, taking a 52-48 lead to intermission.
The back-and-forth action delighted an announced crowd of 763 fans, roughly half of them cheering on the visiting Lobos.
“It was so cool to look behind our bench and see so many people cheering,” Flye said. “Lobo fans are amazing.”
Pack and Salas sparked NMSU on an 8-1 run to start the third quarter to give the home team a 56-53 lead. UNM quickly answered, getting seven third-quarter points from Madi Washington to regain a 77-69 advantage. A Flye 3-pointer gave the Lobos their largest lead, 80-69, early in the fourth.
The Aggies bounced right back again, ultimately tying things at 89 on a Salas jumper. But Jaisa Nunn then converted a three-point play to put New Mexico ahead for good with 4:02 remaining.
“We competed for 40 minutes,” Aggies coach Brooke Atkinson said, “but (the Lobos) killed us on defensive transition. It’s great to score 93 points, but not when you give up 101. UNM’s a hard team to defend.”
Nunn finished with a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) as all five UNM starters scored in double figures. Buck had 14 points, and Alex Lapeyrolerie added 10.
Texas Tech at UNM, 7 p.m., 610 AM
Sunday, Dec. 10
NMSU at UTEP, 2 p.m.