Stevens: Lobos Rally Past UNLV 72-59 To Face No. 1 SDSU in MW Semis

March 14, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball -At The Mountain West Tournament
Las Vegas, Nevada --Thomas & Mack Center (18,776)

Thursday: New Mexico 72, UNLV Lady Rebels 59; San Diego State 67, Nevada 39
Friday: 1 p.m. (MT) - New Mexico vs. San Diego State
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend and Nikki Heckroth-Lobato; Video Stream (free) - The Mountain West Network GameTracker, Game Story, Statistics, Quotes, LoboTV

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The upset wasn't as dramatic as the one New Mexico pulled a year ago in the Mountain West Tournament, but the victim was the same and the result was the same.

The No. 5 seed Lobos (17-13) move on. The No. 4 seed UNLV Lady Rebels (12-19) turn in their jerseys.

The Lobos rallied out of a 17-6 hole, raced to a 30-24 halftime lead and never looked back posting a convincing 72-59 quarterfinal win Thursday in the Las Vegas Thomas & Mack Center.

"They have eight players. They've had some injuries and we understand that," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez of her team rallying from 11 down in the first half. "I said, `Don't panic. We'll wear them down.'"

Maybe the biggest difference in this quarterfinal upset is the opponent that awaits the Lobos in the Mountain West semis - No. 1 San Diego State.

"They are good and they are playing at a different level," Sanchez said of the Aztecs. "We have to come up with a magic potion. It's David and Goliath. We might have to bring a slingshot and a rock."

The Aztecs threw out a statement game on Thursday by ripping Nevada 67-39. The Lobos and the Aztecs play at 1 p.m. (MT) Friday. The Aztecs rolled UNM 63-39 in The Pit and backed that with a 72-44 romp in San Diego. The Aztecs lost their first MW regular-season game and went undefeated the rest of the way.

The Lobos' statement Thursday in The Mack wasn't too shabby either. The defense UNM threw at UNLV made it look like the Rebels were shooting rocks out of slingshots.

The Rebels pretty much imploded after taking their 17-6 lead as UNM upped its defensive intensity and continued to run a smooth offense throughout the game.

"The team really played well together," said UNM's Caroline Durbin, who also credited the big UNM crowd for helping them rally against the Rebels from Vegas. "It's wonderful (the support). The men played yesterday and I think (the fans) all came back and supported us."

A key for UNM going into this contest was to slow down UNLV's Kelli Thompson, who scored 29 in The Pit. The Lady Rebel senior scored seven points going 2-of-14 from the field with five turnovers.

Another key for UNM was making a defensive adjustment on UNLV's Rejane Verin, who scored 14 points in the first half. The lanky Rebels ended with 19 points, but only took one shot from the field in the second half.

The Lobos got 21 points from Antiesha Brown and 17 from Caroline Durbin. Deeva Vaughn got a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. Sara Halasz had 13 points. Jourdan Erskine had four boards and four assists for UNM.

Danielle Miller and Rmanii Haynes had 12 point apiece for UNLV. The Rebels shot 35.7 percent from the field to 40.7 percent for the Lobos. UNM won the board battle 40-34 and had 10 steals.

The UNM bench was huge in this win providing 27 points (21 by Brown). The Rebels got three points off their pine.

"The key is 20-plus points from the bench," said Sanchez. "That's what gets it done."

Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 42, UNLV Lady Rebels 35

The Lady Rebels got their first bucket from Thompson, a trey, to cut UNM's lead to 32-31. The Rebs then got sloppy with the ball helping UNM run to a 36-31 lead. Vegas burned a timeout. At the 15:52 break, the score was still 36-31.

UNM went up 40-34 on a drive by Brown. Halasz made it 43-36 on an old-fashion 3-point play at 14:04. Thompson came down and launched a long trey and missed. Vaughn scored inside to give UNM its biggest lead of the game at 45-36.

The Lobos went up 47-37 on a bucket by Brown and carried a 49-42 lead into the 10:56 media break. At the 7:21 mark, UNM carried a 58-47 lead into a huddle.

The Rebels came back, a little. They whittled a 60-47 deficit into a 60-54 hole. The Lobos got two offensive boards at their end, but finally lost the ball on a Vaughn charge. UNLV hit a trey to make it 60-57 with 1:43 to play.

UNM got a huge bucket from Durbin rolling off a Vaughn screen: 62-57. Thompson missed for UNLV and fouled Brown chasing down the miss. Brown hit two free throws: 64-57. Thompson missed again and Brown was fouled on a drive. She again converted two: 66-57 with 55.4 to play.

The Lobo cruised into the MW semifinals.

First Half: New Mexico Lobos 30, UNLV Lady Rebels 24

The Lobos fell into a 17-6 hole before they solved the problem inside with Rejane Verin. The Lobos also upped their defensive intensity. UNLV finished the half shooting 1-of-14 from the floor.

Verin went 7-of-12 from the field in the half and ended with 14 points and seven boards. Kelli Thompson, the Lady Rebel who went off for 29 points in The Pit, did not make a field goal in the half and was 0-of-5 from the field. Durbin scored 10 points for UNM and Vaughn added eight points.

The Lobos outscored UNLV 24-7 after being behind 17-6. Both teams went 10-of-30 from the field (33.3 percent), but UNM went 3-of-8 from long range and UNLV went 0-3. The Lobos also had the edge at the free-throw line going 7-of-8 to 4-of-8 for the Lady Rebs.

The Rebels went up 17-6 and 19-8 on a Verin bucket before the Lobos got on a little roll and cut that gap to 19-17. That also got the Lobo "Sea of Red" going - something the Rebs did not want to happen.

At the 7:54 media break, the count was still 19-17.

The Lobos kept chipping away. Vaughn scored inside to make it 20-19 and Halasz used the line to hand UNM a 21-20 lead. UNM was on a 15-3 run.

UNM went up 23-21 on a bucket by Khadija Shum pert and bumped its lead to 24-21 on a free throw by Halasz. The Lady Rebels had missed 11 straight field goals, but Miller used the line to pull the Rebels to 24-22.

UNLV finally broke its field-goal drought with a steal and a layup. Durbin banged in a trey to make it 27-24 and beat the buzzer on another trey from the baseline. UNM ran into the locker room up 30-24.