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Lobo women show intriguing talent in officiated scrimmage

Midseason form was not an apt description of the UNM women’s basketball team Saturday morning.

Intriguing was a better fit.

The Lobos had hot-and-cold performances in an officiated intrasquad scrimmage at the Davalos Center but the overall product showed promise. UNM will host Colorado-Colorado Springs for a season-opening exhibition next Sunday, and coach Mike Bradbury saw Saturday’s scrimmage as a step in the right direction.

“We needed to do this,” he said afterward. “I thought we got good shots and the offense looked pretty good. The defense needed to play with more urgency and our rebounding was not good. We found out we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Bradbury juggled players between a Cherry team of all Lobos and a Silver squad that included three male practice players. The Silver team ended up on the winning side of a 75-66 score.

The format made it tough to sort out some of the top individual performances. For example, junior guard Jaedyn De La Cerda scored 12 points – seven for the Cherry team and five for the Silver.

Even so, a few players turned heads.

Senior transfer Najala Howell got most of the minutes at point guard for the Cherry team and scored a game-high 15 points. Sophomore post Shaiquel McGruder also made her presence felt with 11 points and several good defensive plays.

“Yeah, Naj was really good,” Bradbury said, “and Shai played really hard. She especially looked good in transition, which is important because we’re hoping to play faster this year.”

Another positive for UNM was full participation by freshman post Azaria Robinson, who is recovering from ACL surgery. She was medically cleared for full contact this week and wore a big smile when the scrimmage ended.

“I’m really happy to finally be running up and down the court,” Robinson said. “Good timing.”

Bradbury agreed, but said Robinson’s minutes will be “very limited” as she works her way into game shape.

On a surprising note, sophomore guard Jayla Everett and senior post Bride Kennedy-Hopoate struggled to make shots Saturday. Both have been lighting it up during preseason drills.

“I’m not worried about Jayla or Bride missing shots,” Bradbury said. “They won’t have many off days and (Saturday) was not the worst time to have one.”

Everett remains the only confirmed starter for next week’s exhibition. Bradbury plans to set the rest of his rotation by Friday.

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