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Something’s missing with UNM women – and not just two Lobos

UNM’s Jayla Everett is surrounded as she tries to take the ball in for the shot. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Not exactly what the doctor ordered.

Home cooking did not provide much boost for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, which suffered its third straight loss Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena. Visiting Wyoming put on an offensive clinic, went 10-for-20 from 3-point range and effectively imposed its will in a 73-66 victory.

The Lobos (6-3 overall) assured that Mountain West play will be an uphill battle when 2020 begins by falling to 0-2 in conference play. Wyoming (5-3, 2-0), on the other hand, has two road wins already.

Before a crowd listed at 5,495, UNM played its first home game in nearly a month short-handed as seniors Najala Howell and Bride Kennedy-Hopoate were not on the bench. Both practiced with the team Friday, and UNM coach Mike Bradbury offered no explanation for their absence.

“I can’t address that,” he said. “I can’t give an accurate answer for why they’re not here. Maybe by Monday I’ll be able to say more.”

UNM already has played two games this season without Texas transfer Jordan Hosey, and Bradbury didn’t address her absence either. Hosey since returned and played in the Lobos’ last two contests.

Bradbury did not count a short bench among the reasons for Saturday’s outcome. That, he said, was largely a function of energy – and Wyoming’s was superior.

“First, Wyoming is good,” Bradbury said. “They executed their plan and did a great job. But it was a different game for us because our energy level was not what it had been in previous games. That’s disappointing.”

UNM’s Jaedyn De La Cerda puts up the shot against Wyoming’s Taylor Risk. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Most of the game’s statistics were remarkably even. Wyoming had a 37-35 rebounding edge, and the Lobos forced 11 turnovers to the Cowgirls’ nine. Each team made seven free throws, while UNM hit one more 2-point field goal.

But 3-point shooting was not even. Five players hit 3s for the Cowgirls, and all five shot 50% or better from beyond the arc. The Lobos were 7-of-24 from long range, with primary shooters Ahlise Hurst and Jaedyn De La Cerda just 1-for-3 combined.

“Taking Ahlise and Jaedyn away was their plan,” Bradbury said of the Cowgirls, “and we weren’t aggressive enough to combat it. Most of this season we’ve had other players step up when someone gets taken away. Today we didn’t.”

Aisia Robertson, making her first start of the season after ACL surgery, scored 14 points and went 2-of-3 from 3-point range for UNM. Jayla Everett also scored 14 and had six assists but was 4 -of-11 from long distance.

Three players went off for Wyoming, which scored 14 points more than its season average. Post Tereza Vitulova racked up 23 points, while Karla Erjavec added 17 and Quinn Widemann had 15.

Efficient? Believe it. Wyoming ran its offense to a tee and regularly made Lobo defenders pay for helping on dribble-penetration, kicking the ball to open shooters who rarely seemed to miss.

The score was tied at 21 after one quarter, and Wyoming led 36-34 at halftime after an Everett layup just after the buzzer was waved off. The Cowgirls then hit seven of their first nine shots to open the third quarter, including 3-pointers by Vitulova and Widemann, to build a 53-42 lead.

UNM battled back with a 10-4 surge, trimming the deficit to 56-52 on a Hosey putback. But after forcing Erjavec to put up a difficult 15-foot runner to beat the shot clock on the quarter’s final possession, the Lobos allowed her to grab her own rebound and convert an easy layup to make it 58-52.

Everett hit a deep 3 to get UNM within 58-55, but the Lobos’ next four possessions ended with two missed 3s and two turnovers. Wyoming capitalized, rebuilding its lead to 64-55 and using its patient style to keep UNM at bay the rest of the way.

The Lobos now face six nonconference games before hosting San Jose State on New Year’s Day.

“We’ll get back to work and figure out how to get our energy level right again,” Bradbury said. “That’s what we talked about in the locker room. When you don’t get that right, nothing else really matters.”

(Box score: Wyoming 73, New Mexico 66)

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