It might be tough for New Mexico and Houston to top last season’s women’s basketball shootout.
The Lobos outlasted the Cougars in an 89-84, double-overtime thriller in Texas that featured 11 ties, 13 lead changes and more turnovers than a grocery store bakery (57 combined).
“Funnest game of the year,” UNM junior Antonia Anderson recalled. “That’s what I remember about it.”
Only four of the 10 players who started last year’s contest will be available to play in Tuesday’s rematch at Dreamstyle Arena, two for each team. Still, Lobos coach Mike Bradbury expects another up-and-down affair with plenty of offense.
“Houston’s fast and athletic,” Bradbury said, “kind of like we are. They’ve got some different players but they didn’t lose any speed. I think you’ll see a lot of points scored in this game.”
After studying game video of the Cougars (1-1), Anderson agreed.
“We’re playing a team that’s exactly like us in a lot of ways,” Anderson said. “They play really fast and have a lot of people who can score. We don’t see a lot of teams who’ll press us and keep trying to beat us down the court. It’ll be a good challenge.”
The Lobos (2-0) and Cougars have also been guilty of inconsistent play. UNM struggled in the first quarter of each of its first two games, falling into double-digit holes against UC Riverside and Northern Arizona before battling back.
“We’ve got to start better,” Anderson said. “We scored eight points in the first quarter (against UCR) and that’s not going to cut it.”
Houston can empathize. The Cougars trailed 16-15 after one quarter in their opener at Georgia Tech, then proceeded to get outscored 26-1 in the second and ended up on the wrong end of a 69-38 blowout.
Coach Ronald Hughey’s team bounced back with a 78-65 home win over Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday, avoiding any long dry spells. The Cougars forced 30 turnovers and never trailed.
Nonetheless, Bradbury said ball security has not been a topic of discussion.
“I think the big thing is to be aggressive against a pressing team,” he said. “We need to attack and try to get some easy baskets. We haven’t really discussed turnovers.”
Bradbury and his staff have discussed various starting lineups, and those conversations were ongoing as of Monday afternoon. Two different groups of UNM starters were outscored by a combined 119-71 in the Lobos’ first two games, but the bench more than made up for it. New Mexico outscored UCR and NAU by a combined 92-27 in bench points.
“The second, third and fourth quarters we’ve been pretty good,” Bradbury said. “Got to start games better, though.”
Guards Najala Howell and Ahlise Hurst, who have started both previous games, will be back in the lineup against Houston. UNM’s other three starters had not been determined, Bradbury said. Bride Kennedy-Hopoate and Shai McGruder have made two starts, with Anderson and Jaedyn De La Cerda making one apiece.
MAKING PROGRESS: Point guard Aisia Robertson is making strides in her recovery from ACL surgery. The senior competed with UNM’s scout team in half-court scrimmage situations Monday.
“She’s been cleared for contact and can go half-court,” Bradbury said. “I still don’t have a timetable for her, but A.R.’s come a long way in the last month. It’s encouraging.”
Robertson, an All-Mountain West selection last season, hopes to return to the lineup by midseason. Houston’s players and coaches are unlikely to miss her Tuesday night. Robertson posted a triple-double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) in last season’s meeting.