Fans looking for a sneak preview of the Mike Bradbury era of UNM women’s basketball got exactly that on Saturday.
In their first competitive appearance since Bradbury was hired as coach, the Lobos took on a team composed mostly of their male practice counterparts in an officiated scrimmage at the Pit. The Silver (practice) team raced to an early double-digit lead but had to hold on for a 100-97 victory over the Cherry-clad Lobos.
A finished product? Not even close.
As one might expect from a team transitioning to an entirely new system, the Lobos made their share of mistakes. But UNM’s offense also clicked and looked impressive at times.
Around 250 fans applauded after the morning scrimmage – a regular four 10-minute quarters – and Bradbury walked away encouraged.
“We turned the ball over too much,” he said, “but we played at the right pace and showed some good fight. I think everybody had fun, and this gives us something to work from. We’ll watch the video and sort out the good from the bad.”
Undeniably good was the Pit debut of Wright State graduate transfer Richelle van der Keijl, who racked up 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 24 minutes. The 6-foot-5 van der Keijl went 10-for-13 from the field and displayed a deft scoring touch with both hands.
Five other players scored nine points or more for the Cherry Lobo squad, which pushed the ball and took quick shots at every opportunity. It was a drastic change from last season, when UNM averaged 61.3 points per game and often struggled to find consistent scoring outside of senior post Khadijah Shumpert.
“It’s definitely fun to get up and down and play at this kind of pace,” junior Laneah Bryan said. “Last year if we got down six or eight (points), it took a really long time to get it back. Now we can do it in just a few quick possessions.”
Sophomore Cherise Beynon and freshman Mykiel “Mike” Burleson handled most of the point-guard duties, and both finished much more impressively than they started. Beynon had 17 points and nine assists, while Burelson posted 14 points and four assists. They combined for eight points and eight turnovers in the first half.
“First impression, I’d say Mike did a pretty good job against the pressure,” Bradbury said. “As a group, I thought we got better as the game wore on.”
That, Bryan said, had something to do with the competition. The Silver squad included freshman Brittany Panetti, transfer Tesha Buck and seven male practice players, who did not take it at all easy on the Lobos.
“The guys are really quick,” Bryan said, “and it took us a while to adjust. We turned the ball over a lot (15 times) in the first half, but we did a little better (six turnovers) in the second.”
Jaisa Nunn finished with 11 points for the Lobos, while Bryan and Alex Lapeyrolerie scored nine apiece. Lapeyrolerie had a 16-foot jumper to tie the score in the closing seconds but it rattled out. Bryan missed a desperation 3-point try at the buzzer.
Afterward, Bradbury thanked fans who attended, while players signed autographs. The Lobos first game action will come in a Nov. 1 exhibition game against Fort Lewis at the Pit.
“Hopefully, we can score 97 every game,” Bradbury said, “and give up a little bit less than we did today.”