Awful start, ice-cold finish.
That effectively sums up the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team’s performance Wednesday night at Dreamstyle Arena.
In between the Lobos trimmed a 19-point deficit to three and appeared headed toward yet another nail-biting finish. But UNM’s offense suddenly ran dry, failing to score over the game’s final 4:44 as San Diego State held on for a 67-58 victory.
Shooting range was perhaps the most notable difference as the Aztecs went 8 for 15 from 3-point range and hit 7 of 8 from the foul line. The Lobos didn’t hit much of anything from beyond 10 feet, finishing 1 for 17 from 3-point range and 11 of 20 from the free-throw line.
“I can’t speak to our mindsets,” UNM assistant coach Bill Ferrara said, “but mentally we weren’t in it early or late. I’m proud of the way we fought, got back in it at the end, but that was a really rough start.”
Ferrara addressed the media after the game because head coach Mike Bradbury was not feeling well. He left a postgame radio interview after answering only one question.
The Lobos’ first-quarter performance did little to make Bradbury or an announced crowd of 4,753 feel any better. The visiting Aztecs came out sizzling, hitting 9 of 13 from the floor including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, while UNM went 4 of 18 and missed all seven of its 3-point tries. Two Sophia Ramos free throws gave SDSU a 25-6 lead with 1:29 left in the quarter.
“We gave up so many open shots early,” Ferrara said. “We had an aggressive ball-screen defense planned but we didn’t communicate well or fly around the way we needed to. Tip your cap to (the Aztecs), they seemed to hit every shot.”
UNM began to scratch its way back in the second quarter, getting as close as 34-25 on an Antonia Anderson jumper. But SDSU point guard Sophia Ramos, who has tormented UNM over the past two seasons, followed with a 3-pointer and put her fingers to her lips after quieting the fans. Ramos, who finished with 16 points, and Taylor Kalmer (a game-high 17) scored all the points in a 10-2 run that helped the Aztecs lead 44-30 at halftime.
The Lobos (13-13, 4-9 Mountain West) did turn the tide in the third quarter. Anderson and Jaedyn De La Cerda scored four points apiece as UNM opened with a 12-3 surge to trim the deficit to 47-42.
After its man-to-man defense was scorched in the first half, New Mexico went to a 2-3 zone that limited SDSU to 3-for-17 shooting in the third quarter. The Aztecs’ lead was 54-48 entering the final 10 minutes.
Unable to hit from outside, UNM continued to attack the basket. Ahlise Hurst scored twice on drives early in the fourth quarter on her way to a team-high 13 points. Corina Carter, who scored nine points off the bench, hit a driving bank shot to make the score 61-58 with 4:44 left.
It was 63-58 when the game seemed to turn for good. SDSU’s Zayn Dornstauder was called for an intentional foul after a video review, giving UNM two free throws and possession.
De La Cerda missed both foul shots, Carter missed a shot on the ensuing possession and it seemed to take the steam out of UNM’s offense. SDSU (12-14, 7-7) scored just 23 points in the second half but finished on a 6-0 run to earn a sweep of the season series.
Shai McGruder finished with 12 points, and Anderson had 10 for the Lobos. Seniors Jordan Hosey and Aisia Robertson struggled, combining for six points and missing all six of their free throws.
Hosey and Hurst absorbed shots to the face in the physical affair and both went to the floor. Neither player was seriously injured, Ferrara said.
“It was a physical game and we got thrown down tonight,” he said. “We’ve done a good job getting back up all year and we’ll have to do that again starting (Thursday).”