Another slow start, and this time the UNM women’s basketball team couldn’t quite overcome it.
Riley Snyder and Kaelin Immel hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 1:17 and Air Force held on for a 75-73 victory over UNM on Wednesday night in Colorado Springs.
The Lobos had two possessions with chances to either tie or take the lead in the final 13.7 seconds but could not convert on either. Shaiquel McGruder missed an off-balance driving layup attempt on the first, and UNM failed to get a shot off before the buzzer on the second.
Those two plays effectively summed up the evening for UNM coach Mike Bradbury.
“We didn’t have it tonight,” he said in postgame phone interview. “We couldn’t concentrate, we couldn’t execute and it showed on those last two plays.
“We usually excel in those situations but not this time.”
The loss dealt a major blow to UNM’s hopes for a first-place finish in the Mountain West’s regular-season race.
UNM (10-3, 7-3) trails Colorado State (14-2, 10-2) and Fresno State (14-7, 12-4) with less than two weeks remaining before the MWC tournament. (Click here for updated MWC standings.)
UNM earned an 80-66 win over the Falcons (6-14, 3-11) on Tuesday in a game that started in a familiar fashion. Air Force led at halftime, only to have UNM storm back after intermission.
In fact, the Lobos have trailed at halftime in each of their last four games, but their streak of three straight comeback wins ended Wednesday.
“Play with fire too many times, you get burned,” Bradbury said.
LaTascya Duff scored 20 points to lead the Lobos, who sputtered through the first half, committing 10 turnovers and missing numerous layups.
Air Force led 38-33 at intermission.
The Falcons, who got 35 combined points from Snyder and Immel, dominated the first five minutes of the third quarter and expanded their lead to 49-37 before the Lobos finally found a spark.
UNM switched to a half-court zone defense that seemed to fluster the Falcons, and the visitors took advantage. Jaedyn De La Cerda and Duff hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cap an 11-0 run that trimmed Air Force’s lead to 49-48.
Things stayed tight through the fourth quarter and UNM appeared poised to pull out a victory when Antonia Anderson’s reverse layup gave the Lobos a 71-68 advantage with 1.46 left.
Snyder’s second-chance 3 tied the score, however, and the Lobos then turned the ball over, setting the stage for Immel’s 3-pointer that put AFA ahead to stay.
“It was really the same kind of game as (Tuesday),” Bradbury said, “except this time Air Force hit the big shots and we didn’t. I still love this team. We’ll just go back to work and try to figure out how to put 40 good minutes together.”
De La Cerda finished with 16 points, and Anderson scored 13 before fouling out for UNM, which will travel to Logan, Utah, on Thursday to prepare for a Sunday-Monday series against Utah State. Starting guard Ahlise Hurst, who missed the Air Force series, could rejoin the team in Utah if she clears COVID-19 protocols in time.
UNM at Utah State, noon, themw.com, 610 AM/95.9 FM