A little full-court pressure made a world of difference for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team Tuesday night.
Tied with host Nicholls State at halftime, the Lobos turned to trapping full-court pressure in the third quarter and immediately took control on their way to a 72-55 victory in Thibodaux, Louisiana. UNM reeled off 16 straight points to start the third quarter and rode the momentum to its third straight win.
New Mexico (4-3) has not often employed extended defensive pressure this season, but coach Mike Bradbury said it was part of the game plan Tuesday.
“We wanted to press in the first half but we never really had a good opportunity,” Bradbury said in a postgame phone interview. “In the third quarter we pressed off the first dead ball, and I think it surprised (the Colonels) a little bit. We got a couple of steals, were able to stay in it and it got us playing with a lot more energy.”
Three players – LaTascya Duff, Shaiquel McGruder and Amaya Brown – carried most of the scoring load for UNM, combining for 50 of the Lobos’ 72 points. Duff scored a game-high 20 points and hit six 3-pointers, while McGruder and Brown effectively capitalized on the Lobos’ second-half defensive pressure.
McGruder collected 15 points and 14 rebounds, excelling in transition and converting in the post. Brown had a stat sheet-stuffing performance with 15 points, seven rebounds (five offensive), five steals, three assists and a block.
“Amaya was really good,” Bradbury said. “She played great defense and started hammering the offensive boards in the second half. That was a big key for us.”
UNM has frequently struggled on the boards this season and did so again in Tuesday’s first half. Nicholls State (3-5) had a 24-20 rebounding advantage and 15 second-chance points at halftime.
The Lobos turned the tables in the second half, finishing with a 40-38 rebound edge for the game and not allowing any second-chance points over the final two quarters.
UNM led for most of the first half, holding a 28-21 lead on a driving Duff layup with 4:04 left in the second quarter. But the Colonels ended the half on a 9-2 run, pulling even on Amelia Sandie’s fast-break layup just before the buzzer.
Sandie led Nicholls State with 17 points, but 15 of them came in the first half.
McGruder and Brown sparked UNM’s momentum-changing run in the third quarter, combining for three steals and 11 points during the Lobos’ 16-0 tear. New Mexico led 55-41 after three quarters and held a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
UNM got a spark from sophomore Aniyah Augmon, who returned after missing three games due to illness. The Lobos were still shorthanded, however, as Jaelyn Bates sat out with an ankle injury suffered at practice and Viané Cumber missed the second half with leg soreness. Mackenzie Curtis (concussion protocol) missed a fourth straight game.
The Lobos’ next three games will be at home, beginning Sunday with a 1 p.m. matchup against No. 14 Arizona in the Pit.