Lobo women get off to a fast start, rout Houston Baptist - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo women get off to a fast start, rout Houston Baptist

It was just the kind of holiday appetizer the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team had in mind.

Shaiquel McGruder posted a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds), four starters scored in double figures and the Lobos rode a sizzling start to a 76-58 victory over Houston Baptist at the Pit on Tuesday night.

UNM coach Mike Bradbury made extensive use of his bench in preparation for the three-game Van Chancellor Invitational that begins Friday in Katy, Texas. Perhaps more important, the Lobos were able to wash away the taste of Saturday’s sour 89-60 road loss to Houston out of their mouths.

“The way we played Saturday, that wasn’t us,” McGruder said. “We definitely didn’t want to see that again. We came home, worked hard at practice and came out ready to go.”

Ready indeed.

Jaedyn De La Cerda scored nine first-quarter points, UNM’s defense forced nine turnovers and the home team blazed to a 23-2 lead after the first 10 minutes. The Huskies (3-2) aided in their own demise by starting 1-for-14 from the field, but New Mexico’s aggressive defense played a significant role.

“Positive outcome,” Bradbury said. “We played really hard tonight. In the first half we really competed and in the second half we got minutes for some kids we’re going to need throughout the rest of the season.”

The Lobos (4-1) largely fixed the ball-security issues that plagued them in Houston, forcing 20 turnovers and committing just 10 against HBU. The Lobos expected to face full-court pressure for a second straight game after a 34-turnover outing against Houston, but the Huskies’ inability to score early eliminated that option.

“When you have a loss like that, it’s important to just flip the page really quick and try to win another game,” said De La Cerda, who finished with 17 points. “We just stayed together, had each other’s backs and flipped the page.”

UNM got its up-tempo game rolling in the second quarter, much to the delight of an announced 4,231 fans. McGruder cashed in on slick passes from De La Cerda and LaTora Duff, converting under the basket as the Lobos’ lead ballooned to as many as 29 points.

It was a significant turn of fortunes for McGruder, who scored 30 points in UNM’s last home game but failed to score Saturday.

“When Shai is excited and plays with that kind of energy, she can be as good as she wants to be,” Bradbury said.

It took the Lobos longer to get their reserves rolling Tuesday. Houston Baptist warmed up considerably in the second half and scored the last seven points of the third quarter to make the score 60-40. At that point, UNM did not have a bench point to its credit.

But Viané Cumber nailed a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, Rebeka Renczes later added two more and the Lobos led comfortably 73-48 with two minutes left.

“Our bench competes hard every day in practice,” De La Cerda said, “and they come in with energy. It’s good to see them have some good minutes like that.”

Duff finished with 11 points, four assists, four steals and one turnover for the Lobos. Antonia Anderson added 11 points, three steals and four blocks.

Timia Jefferson scored 15 points, and Marily Nzoiwu had 13 for Houston Baptist, which outrebounded UNM 42-34 but was outscored 45-26 in the paint.

The Lobos were scheduled to leave for Texas on Wednesday and will spend Thanksgiving together before opening tournament play Friday against Stephen F. Austin. UNM will face Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday and take on Texas Tech on Sunday.

Box score: UNM 76, Houston Baptist 58

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