Losing starter Ebony Walker to injury and having two other starters foul out, the UNM women’s basketball team was in no position to mount a second-half comeback against Texas on Tuesday night.
Point guard Bryce Owens and the Lobo reserves did their best to hang around, but the Longhorns effectively kept UNM at arm’s length in a 67-52 victory in front of 6,083 fans at the Pit.
Walker, a junior post from Albuquerque, was carried off the court after falling awkwardly early in the second half. She’ll have tests performed today, but Lobo coach Yvonne Sanchez was not optimistic.
“We’ll know more (today),” Sanchez said, “but I’m not really expecting to have Ebony for the rest of the season.”
UNM starters Antiesha Brown and Khadijah Shumpert fouled out in the second half, leaving a patchwork lineup to face the Longhorns starters in the closing minutes. But while attrition hurt the home team’s cause, ice-cold, first-half shooting ultimately doomed it.
New Mexico shot 18 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and slipped into a 30-18 hole. It was almost a mirror image of last week’s game at Texas Tech, when the Lobos shot 16 percent and trailed by 11 points at intermission.
As they did in Lubbock, the Lobos (1-2) performed better after halftime, but it wasn’t nearly enough against tall and talented Texas (3-0).
Sanchez and her players were at a loss to explain the dismal starts.
“We shoot every day – before, during and after practice,” Sanchez said. “We’re taking shots we knock down every day. I don’t know if it’s nerves or we’re rushing it or what, but it’s hard to watch. You can’t beat Texas shooting like that.”
UNM’s starting guards were poster girls for the frigid first half. Owens, Brown and Sara Halasz went a combined 1-for-18 before halftime.
Owens and Brown bounced back after intermission, scoring all of their 27 combined points. Halasz never did warm up and finished 1-for-11 from the floor.
“It seems like we’re trying to get the feel of the game instead of coming out and taking charge,” said Brown, who scored a team-high 14 points in 24 foul-plagued minutes. “All I know is, we have to find a way to start faster.”
In spite its icy shooting, UNM managed to stay close for most of the first half. Halasz’s lone basket – a back-door layup off a Deeva Vaughn bounce pass – pulled the Lobos to 19-16 with 5minutes left.
But it was the last field goal New Mexico made in the half, and Texas finally broke through with an 11-0 run. Nneka Enemkpali, who paced the Longhorns with 19 points and eight rebounds, scored three post baskets during the surge. The Longhorns outscored UNM 42-14 in the paint.
Brown and Owens tried to rally UNM early in the second half, hitting seven quick points to cut the deficit to 34-25. But Texas fought off every Lobo surge behind Enemkpali and guard Empress Davenport (12 points).
Walker left the game with Texas leading 38-25 and 15:33 remaining, and the Longhorns quickly expanded the margin to 19 points. The Lobos never got closer than 11 the rest of the way, and losing Shumpert and Brown to fouls certainly didn’t help.
“Two of our main players fouled out in a crucial time,” Owens said, “and we didn’t need those fouls at all. We’ve got to be smarter.”
If there was a bright side for UNM, it came from the freshman class. Kianna Keller finished with seven points, four rebounds and six blocks in 26 solid minutes. Brooke Allemand and Alex Lapeyrolerie also played effectively against Texas’ starters.