The projected script for Saturday’s Mountain West women’s basketball game in the Pit was discarded well before halftime.
The New Mexico Lobos didn’t mind.
Shaiquel McGruder racked up a double-double (25 points, 14 rebounds) and hit four clinching free throws in the final 24 seconds as the Lobos pulled out a 76-68 victory over Boise State in front of an announced 5,032 fans.
The numbers didn’t shake out as one might have expected as the much-taller Broncos outshot New Mexico from 3-point range but were outscored 40-30 in the paint.
“That’s just the way it played out,” Bradbury said. “Boise State did a good job taking away our strengths, and I thought we took away theirs — at least until (BSU post Elodie) Lalotte started hitting every shot in the second half.”
Lalotte had a double-double of her own (20 points, 12 rebounds) and more than made her presence felt in the paint. But in the end, she and the Broncos (8-12, 3-4 Mountain West) came up on the short end of a physical duel with McGruder and the Lobos (11-9, 3-4).
“We were just going back and forth,” McGruder said of her battle with the powerful 6-foot-1 Lalotte. “She’s a great player and she used her physicality against me. I used my speed against her. I enjoy matchups like that.”
UNM got the better of a game that included 41 fouls, capitalizing by hitting 24-0f-28 from the foul line. Boise State hurt its cause by going 11-for-21.
It was a noticeable change from Thursday’s 65-61 UNM loss at San Diego State, when the Lobos were just 4-of-7 from the foul line while the Aztecs were 12-of-16.
“We got in the right mindset in (Friday’s) practice,” said Lobo senior Amaya Brown, who contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. “Just rebound and play hard for the whole 40 minutes, that was our focus.”
Boise State, one of the MWC’s top rebounding teams, came away with a 47-44 rebound edge, but it didn’t prove significant. Second-chance points were even at 9-9.
Instead, the Broncos came out firing. Freshman Dani Bayes hit three consecutive 3-point tries in the first quarter and the visitors grabbed a 14-8 lead.
The Lobos battled back with a 10-3 run, taking an 18-17 lead when Viané Cumber hit a 3-pointer with one second left in the first quarter. UNM then hit the Broncos with trapping full-court pressure in the second quarter. It paid off with some quick turnovers and sparked an 18-5 run by the home team.
“You can’t let a team like Boise State get comfortable,” Bradbury said. “That was our game plan, to press them a little bit and make sure the game got going.”
Trailing 41-26 at halftime, the Broncos adjusted and gradually climbed back into things. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Anna Ostlie capped a 17-6 surge that cut UNM’s lead to 47-43 with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
The Lobos had an answer, rallying in the fourth quarter behind LaTascya Duff and McGruder. Duff, who did not score in the first three quarters, put 10 points on the board in the fourth. Five came during a 7-0 UNM run that rebuilt the lead to 69-57 with 5:15 left.
Boise State got as close as 72-67 in the final minute, but McGruder’s four straight free throws sealed it for UNM.
Aniyah Augmon finished with 10 points off the bench for the Lobos, who got nine apiece from Cumber and LaTora Duff.
EXTRA POINT: McGruder drew some laughs in the first half when she inadvertently kicked a Boise State pass midway up into the Pit’s north stands. Official Shelley Nakasone grinned and threw both hands up in a mock football signal used for made field goals.
“I wasn’t aware of (Nakasone’s signal),” McGruder said with a smile, “but I heard somebody in the stands yell, ‘It’s good!'”