Shaiquel McGruder's monster performance, strong finish leads UNM women over Abilene Christian - Albuquerque Journal

Shaiquel McGruder’s monster performance, strong finish leads UNM women over Abilene Christian

Lobo senior Shaiquel McGruder (13) shoots during the second quarter of her standout 23-point, 13-rebound performance Wednesday as New Mexico beat Abilene Christian. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

On a rainy Wednesday night with a late-arriving crowd, the UNM women’s basketball team seemed to need a litte wakeup call in the Pit.

Visiting Abilene Christian provided one, rallying from a nine-point deficit to grab a 47-46 third-quarter lead.

That splash of cold water seemed to do the trick. Riding big nights from Shaiquel McGruder and LaTascya Duff, UNM took control late and pulled out a 71-61 victory in front of an announced 4,385 fans.

McGruder had a monster performance, racking up 23 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four steals. Duff added 19 points and went 5-for-9 from 3-point range — including a pair of key 3s after the Wildcats took their only lead.

“I’d been in kind of a slump lately,” Duff said, “but tonight I felt like I got the ball in good spots. Good to see shots going in.”

Duff’s biggest shot was a transition 3 that came 10 seconds after Madi Miller hit a 3-pointer to give ACU its one-point edge with 1:03 left in the third quarter. Duff added another 3 early in the fourth, part of a 10-0 surge that put UNM (5-4) ahead to stay.

“We started throwing the ball to Tay,” Lobos coach Mike Bradbury said of his team’s rally. “It’s not that complicated. We missed her probably five or six times wide open in the third quarter and took crazy, one-footed shots and missed layups. Once we started playing to our strengths again, things turned around.”

It was a bounce-back win for the Lobos, who had a three-game winning streak snapped Sunday by No. 12 Arizona. Wednesday’s game against ACU (4-4) could not match Sunday’s buzz, but McGruder made sure her team did not suffer a letdown.

“We competed,” she said. “We didn’t let any of (Abilene Christian’s) streaks bother us. We just kept going, came out and fought.”

Paula Reus (11 points, eight rebounds) and Amaya Brown (10 points) also reached double-figures for UNM, which needed the balanced scoring to fight off an efficient ACU squad.

University of New Mexico senior Nia Johnson (24) drives past Abilene Christian freshman Hampton Williams (5) during the Lobos’ 71-61 home win Wednesday at the Pit. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Aspen Thornton scored 17 points for the Wildcats, 12 of them in the third quarter when the visitors rallied to take the lead.

“Abilene Christian executes their offense really well,” Bradbury said. “We turned them over in the first half and that’s what got us the lead. They didn’t turn it over in the third quarter and started making plays.”

The Lobos started fast Wednesday, leading 24-16 after one quarter and building the margin to 32-20 on a Reus 3-pointer in the second. ACU trimmed the deficit to 37-28 by halftime and outscored sputtering UNM 19-9 over the first nine minutes of the third quarter.

But the Lobos had an effective response. Duff’s 3-pointers combined with some nifty passing inside turned the momentum back to the home team. McGruder banked in a reverse layup on a feed from Aniyah Augmon, who later scored inside on an assist from Reus.

“We’ve got to get over these poor starts in the third quarter,” Bradbury said, “but I liked that we overcame a little adversity. It’s good to come back and get a win against a solid team.”

 

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