Lobos Grind out 52-43 Win Over Scrappy Titans

Dec. 4, 2012

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Saturday, Dec. 8 is Pack The Pit: All Lobos women's basketball tickets are $2 for UNM's game against Arizona. Tip off is at 2 p.m. MT.

New Mexico Lobos Women Basketball - In The Pit

Tuesday: Lobos def. Cal State Fullerton,
Saturday: 2 p.m.; Arizona at New Mexico -- Pack The Pit, all tickets $2
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The University of New Mexico women's basketball team improved to 7-2 overall with a 52-43 win over non-conference opponent Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday night in front of 5,924 fans in The Pit.

"It was a grind game," Head Coach Yvonne Sanchez said of the contest. The first half was a very physical one and the Lobos held a slight advantage, 21-18, at the break.

"Every time I looked over everybody's hands were flailing all over the place," Sanchez said of the first half.

New Mexico took control in the second half, focusing on getting the ball in the post where, due to defensive switches, the Lobos had size advantage. It was still a physical game, but New Mexico's bigs had a few inches on Cal State Fullerton's guards.

The scheme worked, and UNM pulled away, 33-22, within the first six minutes of the second half. Halfway through the second half, the Lobos had outscored the Titans 16-5 for a 37-23 lead, and with 3:32 to go, New Mexico led by 19 points, 46-27.

"I thought our effort was tremendous, except for the last 56 seconds," Sanchez said. "But I tell you what, we held them to 30 points for a long time. Then they just kind of went crazy. A lot of that is still the rebuilding process."

The "crazy" Sanchez mentioned was an 8-4 run by the Titans in the final minute of play. Cal State Fullerton outscored the Lobos 13-4 in the final 2:38 of play.

"We're still rebuilding. Aside from Caroline (Durbin), we have players who aren't in roles that they're used to. Sara (Halasz) has been out two years, Chinyere (Nnaji) played a lot but wasn't asked to score a lot. Jourdan (Erskine), same thing because we had Porche Torrance in there (last season) so they're still getting comfortable in roles that they might not have had last year."

Redshirt junior Sara Halasz led the Lobos with nine points and four rebounds while freshman Bryce Owens had eight points, six steals and four assists.

Senior Jourdan Erskine had eight boards and seven points while seniors Caroline Durbin and Jayme Jackson each had six points. Durbin added five rebounds.

New Mexico knew Cal State Fullerton was going to be a scrappy, physical team -- particularly on the boards. The Titans had 45 rebounds, including 23 offensive boards, to 41 (12 offensive) by the Lobos.

"They were definitely a scrappy team," Erskine said. "This is one of the more physical games I've played.

"I thought our defensive was really good aside from the offensive boards, but I feel like we talked as a team and we did what we were supposed to do. It was probably one of our best defensive games."

New Mexico had double the assists that the Titans had, 14-7, and got to the free throw line 20 times as opposed to just nine by the visiting team.

The Lobos host Arizona for Pack the Pit on Saturday, Dec. 8. All tickets are $2 and tipoff is at 2 p.m. MT.

First Half - Lobos 21, Cal State Fullerton 18

Each team had a turnover in the opening minute of play and a pair of free throws by freshman point guard Bryce Owens got New Mexico on the scoreboard at the 19-minute mark. Buckets by Jourdan Erskine and Khadijah Shumpert pushed the Lobos to a 6-0 lead by the first media timeout as the Titans struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm.

New Mexico's biggest lead of the half was seven points -- at the 14:56 mark, 7-0, and again at the 13:54 mark, 9-2. But then the Lobos were struck by a scoring drought that lasted nearly four minutes.

Meanwhile, CSU Fullerton strung together a few buckets and a three by CSU Fullerton's Alex Thomas at 10:31 cut New Mexico's lead to two points, 9-7. The Lobos' drought was snapped on the following possession by a pull-up jumper from Durbin and UNM was back in scoring mode.

Unfortunately, the Titans too had found some life on offense. With under seven minutes to go in the first half, the visitors managed to cut the Lobos' lead to one point, 15-14, and about a minute and a half later, a drive by Tailer Butler gave CSU Fullerton its first lead. It was brief, though, thanks to a baseline jumper from Halasz that put UNM back on top, 17-16.

The teams battled back and forth for nearly two minutes, until a shot by the Titans' Hailey King fell and again, the visitors took over the lead, 18-17.

A post feed from Owens to Johnson resulted in another lead takeover for the Lobos with 2:04 remaining in the half, and a put back by Nnaji at 39 seconds increased New Mexico's edge to four points, 21-18, at the half.

Second Half - Lobos 53, Cal State Fullerton 43

The Lobos had the ball to start the half and 18 seconds in, a determined Halasz drove the middle for a lay up.

Cal State Fullerton stuck close to New Mexico, matching the Cherry and Silver in buckets. An impressive turnaround jumper on the left side of the basket by Durbin just under three minutes into the half moved the Lobos to a 26-22 lead and prompted a timeout by the Titans.

The lead grew to six points on a layup by Vaughn and at the first media timeout, the Lobos had established an edge in rebounds, 4-2, including three offensive boards that translated to three second-chance points.

New Mexico held the Titans scoreless for over four minutes, meanwhile putting up nine points capped by a three-point bucket by Owens to move the score to 33-22 with 14:11 to go in regulation.

A free throw by Lauren Bushong snapped the Titans' drought at 13:50 and the score remained 33-23, Lobos as over three minutes ticked off the clock.

With 11 minutes remaining, a layup by Shumpert off a dish from Johnson moved the Lobos to a 35-23 lead and shortly after, a layup by Johnson pushed the Lobos to a 14-point lead, 37-23.

The teams traded jumpers before a layup by Mya Olivier at 7:41 moved the Titans slightly closer, 39-27, but then Cal State Fullerton went cold and the Lobos tacked on seven points to secure their largest lead of the night, 46-27.

New Mexico still had a sizable lead, 48-30, with 3:02 remaining, but the Titans found some spunk in the waning minutes and created three Lobo miscues to put together a 13-4 run in the final 2:38 of the game.

The Lobos were the last to score as a Nnaji sunk a freethrow with five seconds remaining to secure the 52-43 win for UNM.