Feature photo courtesy UNM Athletics: Jayla Everett scored 22 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer for UNM in it’s 68-64 win Saturday at Utah State.
By George Hronich
For Enchantment Sports
On Australia Day in Logan, Utah, the cardiac New Mexico women’s basketball team withstood losing leads again but finished with a strong last minute Saturday afternoon for a 68-64 win over the Utah State Aggies.
Freshman Jayla Everett’s 3-pointer with 51 seconds broke a 62-62 tie to give UNM (17-2, 7-1 Mountain West) the lead for good after the Aggies (10-8, 5-2) had scored seven straight points to even the score and set up Everett’s heroics.
Everett scored a team-high 22 points, including six 3-pointers.
A Jaisa Nunn bucket gave the Lobos a 62-55 lead with 3:38 left in the game, and the Lobos looked in good shape to finish the game.
USU, however, would take advantage of a couple empty trips from the visitors, scoring a 3-pointer and two inside baskets to tie the game at 62 on Shannon Dufficy’s layup at the 1:05 mark.
After a timeout, Lobo coach set up a play for Everett, who responded with the 20-foot trey. Good Lobo defense and three free throws sealed the win for UNM, who moved into first place in the conference. Boise State (15-3, 6-1) suffered a 64-52 upset loss at Wyoming (11-5, 4-3), also on Saturday.
The hosts were honoring Australian Foundation Day as they have Aussies on their roster. UNM joined in the celebration with freshman Ahlise Hurst and transfer Bride Kennedy Hopoate also hailing from Down Under.
The game started out with the clubs exchanging 3-point baskets and turnovers on traveling calls. The Lobos would get hot from behind the arc and make 4 of 9 from beyond the arc to get the offense started in the right direction.
UNM’s problem the first quarter came on the glass, giving up seven offensive rebounds to Utah State. The Aggies were unable to take full advantage of those boards, and the Lobos were able to grab an 18-12 first-quarter lead.
Hurst scored 11 first-quarter points on the strength of three treys to pace the Lobos early. Everett his the other 3-pointer in the quarter for UNM.
Both teams had sluggish starts to start the second quarter. Senior Lobo point guard Aisia Robertson would pick up her second foul and go to the bench.
The Aggies cut the Lobo lead to 18-16 before the Lobos started finding some offense behind Everett and Nunn to build a 30-23 lead. Antonia Anderson also hit a big triple in the run.
The Lobos, however, had back-to-back possessions not getting back on defense, giving USU two layups that cut UNM’s lead to 30-27. The period was sloppily played with New Mexico committing five turnovers and only making three shots in 17 attempts.
The Lobos did go into the locker room with a 32-29 halftime lead, thanks to a better effort on the glass in which they outrebounded Utah State by four in the quarter.
The Lobos went inside early and often to Nunn in the third quarter and the Aggie post players Dufficy and Hailey Bassett got in foul trouble, each picking up their third.
The Lobos would build a nine lead, 42-33, and again looked in control. Robertson and Nunn were more involved in the offense, and Everett hit another trey.
But the Lobos then started getting called for fouls and missed some shots. Dufficy started taking charge on the offensive end and led a 12-3 run to tie the game at 45 with 1:20 left in the third. Dufficy, a junior, came into the game averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds in conference games and put up 26 and 10 on Saturday.
Robertson picked up her third foul, and momentum had swung to the hometown Aggies. Bradbury inserted freshmen Shai McGruder and Quincy Noble into the game for their first action of the afternoon.
McGruder again provided a big spark with a couple rebounds, including an offensive board and putback off a missed free throw for a 48-45 edge late in the quarter. After a defensive stop, it was Noble’s turn to step up, hitting a 3 at the third-quarter buzzer to build the Lobo lead back to six, 51-45.
The fourth quarter saw the Lobos come out a little cold. A couple early quick fouls on UNM strong offensive rebounding by the Aggies helped cut the Lobo lead to two before Everett hit a 3-pointer to give her team some breathing room at 54-49 with 7:12 left. A Nunn three-point play and another Everett long-distance call gave the Lobos a 60-53 lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game.
After Nunn’s basket made it 62-55, the Lobos then went 2 1/2 minutes without scoring. The Aggies scored the next seven before Everett’s final long-range dagger. UNM made just enough free throws the rest of the way (3 of 6) to hold USU at bay.
Nunn and Hurst each scored 13 for the Lobos. Nunn also had 11 rebounds and fellow post player Nike McClure had nine boards. Robertson, after being in early foul trouble, had six assists and added seven points.
The Lobos now are off until next Saturday when they face Fresno State in the Pack the Pit game. here will be $2 tickets available for the game. The Bulldogs (13-5, 6-1) play Wyoming on Wednesday before coming into the Pit. The game could be for the MW lead.