The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team nearly tasted defeat for the first time Sunday.
It made a thrilling overtime win that much sweeter.
The Lobos had to survive a 3-point barrage, including a potential game-winner in the closing seconds of regulation, before finally wearing down Navy in a battle of unbeaten teams at Dreamstyle Arena. UNM (11-0) extended its record start and matched the longest overall winning streak in program history with a thrilling 94-87 overtime victory.
Navy’s Taylor Dunham gave an announced season-best crowd of 6,763 a nervous moment when she launched a long 3-point shot for the win in the closing seconds of regulation. But Dunham, who torched the Lobos for 34 points on 9-of-19 3-point shooting, misfired to force overtime with the score tied at 82.
The extra five minutes were all New Mexico, as Cherise Beynon and Tesha Buck converted three straight post baskets to spark a decisive 12-2 run. Beynon and Buck paced UNM with 20 and 18 points, respectively, each playing 41 minutes.
The Pit was loud and rocking throughout the showdown, which featured 10 ties and 14 lead changes. Lobos coach Mike Bradbury credited fans for spurring his team to the win.
“It was the kind of game we expected from two undefeated teams,” Bradbury said. “It didn’t disappoint and the atmosphere was great. I can’t thank the fans enough. I don’t know if we’d have hung in there to the very end without them.”
The contest ended up being a battle between UNM’s inside game and Navy’s bombs-away shooting. The Lobos came away with a 60-24 advantage on points in the paint, but the Midshipmen (9-1) answered by setting a school record with 16 3-pointers in 49 attempts.
“Navy never quit,” Bradbury said, “and they’re an extremely frustrating team to play. They’re so disciplined and well-coached on top of just being really good players. Their offense gave us all kinds of problems.”
“We couldn’t guard them, (positions) one through five,” she said. “They’d just drive in, kick it out, and (Dunham) could not miss at all.”
Navy got four 3-pointers from Albuquerque native and Volcano Vista High alum Hannah Fenske, who finished with 14 points and a career-best eight assists. The crowd, which included a gold-and-blue cheering section behind Navy’s bench, gave Fenske a warm ovation at introductions but was all for the home team thereafter.
“It was definitely different than I expected,” Fenske said. “The crowd was really loud and into it the whole game. It was great to be back in that atmosphere and I thought we battled. We just came up a little bit short.”
Navy got off to the faster start, leading by as many as eight points in the first quarter. UNM used full-court pressure to gain momentum in the second quarter, tying the score at 24 on a Jasmine Smith layup. Laneah Bryan’s late 3-pointer helped the Lobos take a 45-42 halftime lead.
Navy hit six 3-pointers in the third quarter (four by Dunham) and the teams effectively traded punches the rest of the way. UNM led 82-79 before Dunham’s ninth 3-pointer, a straight-away shot from well beyond the arc, tied it with 1:05 left in regulation.
Both teams missed 3-point shots in the final minute of regulation and UNM lost starting post Jaisa Nunn, who appeared to hit her head on the floor while diving for a loose ball. Nunn went up the Pit ramp with a trainer and did not return for overtime.
“She’s being examined right now,” Bradbury said after the game. “We don’t practice again until Wednesday. We’ll have a better idea how she’s doing then.”
Nunn (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Alex Lapeyrolerie (15 and 10) posted double-doubles for UNM as all five starters scored in double-figures. Sophie Gatzounas and Kaila Clark had double-doubles for Navy.
NOTE: Sunday’s announced crowd was the largest for a UNM women’s game since 6,911 attended a 2014 game against Fresno State. The walk-up crowd overwhelmed the Pit’s ticket windows and created long lines. Some fans reportedly did not get into the building until halftime.
Thank you to the almost 7000 fans who cheered our team today. You guys were awesome. For the hundreds who didn’t get in until halftime or not at all, I apologize. I will work diligently with our athletic department to make sure that NEVER happens again. #GoLobos
— Mike Bradbury (@CoachBradbury) December 11, 2017
Bradbury took note and tweeted later: “Thank you to the almost 7000 fans who cheered our team today. You guys were awesome. For the hundreds who didn’t get in until halftime or not at all, I apologize. I will work diligently with our athletic department to make sure that NEVER happens again. #GoLobos”
Saturday: UNM at Oklahoma, 2 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM