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Strong second half lifts victorious UNM women

UNM’s Alex Lapeyrolerie turned the postgame stat sheet upside down Saturday when she took the chair at the podium following the Lobo women’s basketball game against Nevada.

It’s not that she played poorly, even though she was held scoreless in the first half. She wound up with 14 points in helping to spark a 72-68 New Mexico win at Dreamstyle Arena.

It’s more just a general attitude Lapeyrolerie embraces.

“When I look at stats, I get worried and I get anxious,” she said. “I don’t like that feeling and it carries over into practice and it carries over into the games. And the next thing you know, I’m doing bad. I’m not performing well. That’s why I don’t look at stats.”

Admittedly frustrated from a first-quarter technical when she slammed the ball in frustration over a slow whistle as she was hounded in the corner, Lapeyrolerie turned in two pivotal plays in a stretch that helped New Mexico (14-1, 2-0 Mountain West) recover from a 41-29 third-quarter deficit.

Jasmine Smith, left, and Jaedyn De La Cerda celebrate a 3-point basket from the bench during the Lobos’ victory. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Following a Madi Washington twisting drive through the lane, Lapeyrolerie hit back-to-back 3-pointers, including one from WNBA range, during an 8-0 run that changed New Mexico’s play.

“After Alex hit the 3, that just got the ball rolling,” said Lobo center Jaisa Nunn, who finished with a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds. “We all started shooting, starting making and started getting rebounds again. We started passing the ball, being unselfish. I think after you make one or two shots, you think, ‘OK, now we can do this.'”

Indeed that was quickly followed by a 20-4 New Mexico run that carried over into the fourth quarter and included two 3s from Tesha Buck, who finished with 16 points and five assists, and one from Washington, who had 14 points and seven boards.

“We talked about it in the timeout,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said of the turning point. “We’re either going to get run out or find a way to get back in it. We responded. (Washington) got a layup. Alex hit a 3. Kind of got us going a little bit.”

New Mexico needed every spark it could get through two-plus quarters because the Wolf Pack (8-5, 1-1), behind Los Lunas alum Teige Zeller and A.J. Cephas, were running around the defense and dominating the boards to get easy baskets.

“That’s exactly what we expected from them,” Bradbury said of Nevada. “I wished we would have fared a little better, especially on the boards. We got pummeled on the boards. It seemed at times that they wanted it a little bit more than us.”

Facing an interior-oriented team, that was to be expected, but the Lobos’ inability to defend was more frustrating, he said.

“They’re big and athletic and that’s the first problem,” Bradbury said. “But the main reason we couldn’t rebound was we couldn’t guard the ball. So we’re constantly in rotation. So now they’re just throwing it up there and you’ve got nobody on the backside to rebound. So now they get it and lay it in. All that rebounding stuff stops if we can guard the ball. And we couldn’t and we paid the price for it.”

At least until Lapeyrolerie filled up the stat sheet that she’ll never see.

“I want to give credit to my teammates and my coaching staff for giving me the ball and figuring out a way to get the spark going,” she said. “And Madi also helped out with that spark as well. And it just went from there.”

Zeller, a senior, finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. Cibola grad Kristin Dearth, a sophomore, finished with two points and a rebound for Nevada.

Box Score: UNM 72, Nevada 68