Things escalated quickly for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team Saturday. Not in a good way.
Host Houston pressed the Lobos into a slew of second-half turnovers, capitalized on most of them and turned a close game into an 89-60 blowout.
Two statistical categories basically told the story for UNM, which came into the game ranked among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. That ranking did not hold up Saturday as the Cougars forced 34 turnovers and converted them into 53 points.
“Their press is really aggressive and we just did not handle it,” Lobos coach Mike Bradbury said in a postgame phone interview. “The last couple times we played them, we were able to attack the press and force them out of it. (Saturday) we couldn’t. We kept turning it over and they kept making us pay.”
UNM trailed by just four points, 38-34, at halftime despite 14 giveaways and foul trouble that kept senior posts Antonia Anderson and Shaiquel McGruder on the bench for most of the first two quarters. A LaTora Duff basket trimmed the deficit to 38-36 to start the third quarter, but it was all Houston the rest of the way.
Tatyana Hill hit back-to-back layups to spark a 20-2 Cougars run bolstered by five UNM turnovers. Laila Blair nailed a pair of open 3-pointers during the surge and the Lobos never recovered.
Blair finished with 19 points to lead four Houston players in double figures. The Cougars (2-2) spent most of the second half in transition, converting layups or hitting open 3s.
“Give Houston a ton of credit. They’re good,” Bradbury said. “That’s why play them. They’re well-coached and their press is outstanding. They showed us things we have to get fixed.”
LaTora Duff paced the Lobos (3-1) with 16 points, and Jaedyn De La Cerda scored 14 but both guards were frequently victimized by the Cougars’ trapping defense. They finished with eight turnovers apiece.
UNM employed its fourth starting lineup in as many games with Kath van Bennekom, Paula Reus and Aniyah Augmon starting alongside the Duff twins. De La Cerda, Anderson and McGruder entered the game midway through the first quarter. Bradbury called the lineup a coach’s decision.
Reus was a bright spot for the Lobos, finishing with seven points, five rebounds and seven assists.