It started off as showtime, finished as a grind, but when all was said and done the UNM women’s basketball team had a rivalry win.
LaTascya Duff scored 22 points, Jaedyn De La Cerda added 15 and the Lobos earned a 77-58 victory over New Mexico State in front of 5,123 fans Friday night at the Pit. The teams will meet again Sunday in Las Cruces for round two of their annual series.
UNM (7-3) had everything it wanted early, reeling off 14 straight points in the first quarter to build a lead it would not relinquish. LaTora Duff hit five of the Lobos’ eight first-half 3-pointers, UNM had a 17-0 advantage in fast-break points and the home team was in control, leading 45-24.
But LaTora Duff, UNM’s starting point guard, did not play in the second half after taking an inadvertent elbow to the nose. After scoring 17 first-half points, she spent the second half on the bench holding an ice bag to her face.
“She’ll get X-rayed by (Saturday),” Lobos coach Mike Bradbury said. “She doesn’t have a concussion, so we’ll just see what the X-ray shows.”
De La Cerda took over UNM’s point guard duties in the second half and effectively kept the Aggies (3-3) from getting too close. De La Cerda scored all 15 of her points after halftime and finished with eight rebounds and four assists.
“Our best player was not in the game, so it took us a while to adjust,” Bradbury said of LaTora Duff’s absence. “I thought Jaedyn did a great job handling things and I thought we ran pretty good offense in the second half.”
NMSU shook off a shaky start and kept things interesting behind 6-foot-3 post Bigue Sarr, who racked up 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Aggies started the second half with an 8-0 run, trimmed a 21-point deficit to 45-32, and basically traded runs with the Lobos the rest of the way.
“We got better shots in the second half,” Aggies coach Brooke Atkinson said. “As explosive as (the Lobos) are offensively, you just can’t afford to turn the ball over and give them second chances. Between the crowd and that early run, it was kind of a double-whammy.”
NMSU was without starting guard Tayelin Grays, who joined the Aggies during warmups but did not feel well afterward and did not play. Her status for Sunday’s game is uncertain, Atkinson said.
The Lobos were forced to patch things together Friday, with LaTora Duff out and Antonia Anderson playing a quiet game (three points on 1-for-2 shooting). Paula Reus chipped in with nine first-half points, including UNM’s final seven. LaTascya Duff and De La Cerda then took over in the second half.
LaTascya Duff scored 11 of her points after halftime, including a pair of key 3s to snuff out NMSU rallies.
“(The Aggies) competed,” she said of her first impression of the Rio Grande Rivalry. “It was a tough, physical game.”
As for her second-half performance, LaTascya said, “It’s never good to see your twin go down. We just had to fight our way through.”
Friday’s win was UNM’s seventh straight in the series and kept the Lobos undefeated at home (6-0) this season. New Mexico State is 3-0 in the Pan American Center and figures to be ready for a quick rematch.
“We’ve never played a team back-to-back like this,” Atkinson said. “Everything will be fresh, only one game to study, so it’ll be interesting.”
UNM played Mountain West foes in back-to-back series last season, but Bradbury is not sure what game two of this series might look like.
“I guess it depends on who’s available,” he said.
BOX SCORE: LOBOS 77, AGGIES 58
UP NEXT: Sunday, UNM at New Mexico State, 2 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM, ESPN+ (streaming)