A fu­ri­ous fin­ish

Record set­ting block party, 3rd quar­ter run spark UNM

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY KEN SICKENGER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

Lobo women dom­i­nate sec­ond half, rout Texas State

It wasn’t a mat­ter of go­ing to Plan B — just do­ing a bet­ter job ex­e­cut­ing Plan A.

That was the story for the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico women’s bas­ket­ball team in Fri­day night’s sea­son-opener against Texas State. Af­ter scratch­ing their way to a two-point half­time lead, the Lo­bos blew the Bob­cats out of Dream­style Arena in the fi­nal two quar­ters.

Aisia Robert­son scored 17 points and sparked a 21-2 third-quar­ter run that lifted UNM to an 82-51 vic­tory in a first-round Women’s Na­tional In­vi­ta­tion Tour­na­ment matchup. Nike McClure racked up six of New Mex­ico’s sin­gle-game team record 16 blocks, sev­eral of which started tran­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties. UNM fin­ished with 45 fast­break points.

“What team doesn’t get hyped over a block?” Robert­son said. “It was great watch­ing my team­mates swat balls all over the gym.”

Fri­day’s win earned UNM a sec­ond-round

home game against Auburn on Sun­day at 2 p.m. The Tigers rolled to an 80-59 win over Ni­cholls State on Fri­day.

Be­fore turn­ing their fo­cus to Auburn, sev­eral Lo­bos took a mo­ment to en­joy their first of­fi­cial game at the Pit. That in­cluded McClure, a grad­u­ate trans­fer from Wash­ing­ton State who had four points to go with seven re­bounds and six blocks.

“Oh, my gosh!” McClure said when asked about a bois­ter­ous crowd an­nounced at 4,585. “Let me say that Lobo fans are now my fa­vorite peo­ple in the world — right up there with mom and dad. You hear about what it’s like at this place and it did not dis­ap­point.”

Robert­son, who spent last sea­son on the bench af­ter trans­fer­ring from Kansas, echoed McClure’s sen­ti­ments.

“It’s amaz­ing,” she said. “When­ever the Pit gets rock­ing, our en­ergy just goes off the charts. Be­ing out there in­stead of on the bench just makes it that much bet­ter.”

UNM had a tough time get­ting the crowd revved up in the first half, thanks in large part to foul trou­ble and some chilly perime­ter shoot­ing. Texas State, which got a game-high 18 points from guard Toshua Leavitt, led 16-14 af­ter a quar­ter and trailed just 29-27 at half­time.

Part of the Lo­bos’ prob­lem was that se­nior post Jaisa Nunn spent most of the first half watch­ing with two fouls. UNM be­came a bit too will­ing to set­tle for 3-point shots and went 3-for-13 from long range in the first half.

The sec­ond half was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. UNM’s guards be­gan pound­ing the ball in­side to Nunn and/or driv­ing to the bas­ket. It paid off hand­somely as the Lo­bos opened the third quar­ter with a 33-4 tear that en­er­gized the fans and stag­gered Texas State.

Jae­dyn De La Cerda cashed in backto-back fast­break layups to make the score 40-29, and Ah­lise Hurst later buried a 3-pointer to make it 52-31.

“We didn’t change any­thing,” Lobo coach Mike Brad­bury said. “They just kept play­ing and did it bet­ter. Hav­ing Jaisa out there ob­vi­ously made a dif­fer­ence, though. You can’t throw it to her when she’s on the bench.”

Robert­son stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 17 points, eight re­bounds, nine as­sists, three steals and two blocks. She also had 10 turnovers and threat­ened to com­plete a rare quadru­ple-dou­ble be­fore Brad­bury emp­tied his bench with 4:30 left.

“I’m ob­vi­ously happy with the points and as­sists,” Robert­son said, “but not with 10 turnovers. I think maybe I tried to thread the nee­dle a few too many times.”

Nunn fin­ished with 14 points, while starters Jayla Everett and De La Cerda scored 11 and nine, re­spec­tively. Fresh­man Shaiquel McGruder im­pressed off the bench, col­lect­ing six points, 13 re­bounds, four steals and two blocks in 17 min­utes.

ROBERTO E. ROS­ALES/JOUR­NAL

Lo­bos guard Aisia Robert­son, right, blocks a shot by Texas State’s Bai­ley Holle dur­ing Fri­day’s UNM win in Dream­style Arena - The Pit.

ROBERTO E. ROS­ALES/JOUR­NAL

Lobo for­ward Nike McClure cel­e­brates af­ter block­ing one of her six shots on Fri­day night against Texas State. UNM had a team-record 16 blocked shots.

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