A return for the ages? Almost.
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team scratched, scratched and gave themselves a late chance against Stephen F. Austin on Friday night, cutting a 20-point deficit to two in a wild fourth quarter.
In the end, the Lobos couldn’t get past it. LaTascya Duff missed a 3-point potential with 11 seconds remaining and the Ladyjacks held on for a 71-66 first-round victory at the Van Chancellor Classic in Katy, TX.
Jaedyn De La Cerda scored 18 points to lead UNM (4-2), including a key pair of baskets that twice reduced the SFA’s lead to two points in the last minute. Twins LaTora and LaTascya Duff totaled 32 points – 21 in the fourth quarter – as the Lobos turned an apparent rout into a bite of the nails.
“We showed combat, character,” Lobos coach Mike Bradbury said in a post-match phone interview. âWe were against what I consider a top 25 team and we fought until the end. It’s something to build on.
Bradbury was not as happy with the third quarter. Stephen F. Austin (5-1) led 27-25 at halftime and opened the second half with a 14-0 run that forced Bradbury to request two quick timeouts.
It was reminiscent of UNM’s previous loss this season in Houston, when the Cougars used a 20-2 streak in the third quarter to take control of the game.
âReally, this is the third or fourth game that we haven’t come out of the locker room,â Bradbury said. “After the third quarter I told them, ‘It’s a competition and we have to compete.'”
UNM did not have typical performances from starting forwards Shaiquel McGruder and Antonia Anderson, who had just seven points. McGruder, who entered the game as UNM’s top scorer, committed three faults in the first half, including one technique, and ended up scoring two points in eight minutes.
The Ladyjacks did much of their damage indoors, getting 26 points from Aiyana Johnson and 13 more from forward Avery Brittingham. The Lobos were able to slow the SFA’s offense in the fourth quarter thanks to the quality defensive work of reserve Kath van Bennekom.
âKath really fought defensively,â said Bradbury. “She played an important role in this comeback.”
Stephen F. Austin took his biggest lead, 59-39, on a Johnson layup with 8:23 remaining. De La Cerda followed with a 3 point, and the Duffs quickly turned the tide by scoring the next 11 points. LaTascya converted a four-point play and LaTora had a three-point play during the surge.
A three-point play from Brittingham gave SFA a 68-63 lead with 29 seconds left, but De La Cerda hit 3 more to bring the score to 68-66. Brianna Mitchell hit one of two free kicks, giving UNM a chance to equalize, but LaTascya Duff’s 3-point baseline was out of place.
The Lobos will face Louisiana-Monroe in Saturday’s second round of the Chancellor Classic at 5:30 pm The Lobos will face Texas Tech in Sunday’s final round.