LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Their season may have ended as it lived.
A frenetic, blazing and promising start for the sixth-seeded University of New Mexico Lobos fell flat after the midway point, watching a 17-point first-half lead evaporate during a dreadful third quarter Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
By the end of a back-and-forth fourth quarter, a desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer came up short for UNM in a 69-66 loss to third-seeded Wyoming in the Mountain West tournament quarterfinals.
Asked if Tuesday was a disappointing end to a season that started with 11 consecutive wins, UNM head coach Mike Bradbury was firm in his belief there will be more basketball to play despite his team being a six seed and having just been swept in three games by the Cowgirls.
“No,” Bradbury insisted. “This is the most wins we’ve had at New Mexico in a decade. We’ll play in the NIT next week. They haven’t been to an NIT in a decade. It’s not disappointing. I’m disappointed right this second because we didn’t win, but…”
WNIT bids will be announced Monday. UNM (21-10) entered play Tuesday with an RPI rating of 82 and can not host a first round game in the WNIT due to an existing contract the the Pit has with a professional rodeo.
Down three with 3.3 seconds left in Tuesday’s game, an inbounds play in front of their bench led to Tesha Buck getting the ball at the top of the key, sidestepping a Cowgirls defender and putting up a 3-point try as the buzzer sounded.
— Lobo Women’s Basketball (@UNMLoboWBB) March 7, 2018
The shot was wide to the left of the rim, and the Lobos season came to a disappointing end after the 11-0 start to the season.
UNM finishes the season 23-10 overall. Wyoming (21-9) will play No. 7 Nevada in tonight’s semifinals.
Lobos junior center Jaisa Nunn had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added 14 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s 1-for-14 shooting stretch in the third quarter or the Lobos’ other four starters shooting a combined 8-of-38 from the field (21.1 percent).
A Nunn bucket and free throw after being fouled with 2:23 left in the second quarter put the hot-starting Lobos up 33-16, their largest advantage of the game.
But Wyoming, which trailed 33-18 at the half, started the third quarter on a 7-0 run that coincided with UNM starting the second half missing its first five shots and calling a timeout with its advantage cut to 33-25. Wyoming later had a 9-0 run and by the end of the third quarter, had a 43-42 lead.
In that third quarter, UNM was 1-for-14 shooting (7.1 percent) while Wyoming hit 9-for-13 (69.2 percent).
UNM never led again in a back-and-forth fourth quarter that was clearly slowed by Lobo foul trouble and a general lack of rebounding in key moments.
“We came out with a really strong first half,” said Cheris Beynon, who had 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting and seven assists. “We didn’t match the energy. … We needed to come out strong (in the second half), and we didn’t. We let up, let them control the pace of the game.”
Madi Washington came off the Lobos bench and scored 12 points for UNM’s third double-digit scorer.
For the game, UNM shot 35.5 percent and gave up 36 Wyoming points in the paint.
Nunn led all scorers at the half with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and had eight rebounds (four on the offensive glass). In that opening 20 minutes, two of Nunn’s points came off of one of her steals leading to a layup, four after her offensive rebounds and three after her defensive rebounds on the other end leading to that layup and free throw with 2:23 left in the half.
Wyoming had four players in double figures, led by Taylor Rusk’s 21 points to go along with four assists and eight rebounds.
NOTES: In the first quarterfinal of the evening session Tuesday, seventh-seeded Nevada upset second-seeded UNLV, 77-73, in double overtime. It was the second day in a row the Wolf Pack played an overtime game (three overtime periods in all). …
Announced attendance for the evening session of Tuesday’s quarterfinal games (Nevada/UNLV in the first game, UNM/Wyoming in the second) was 2,361.