Lobo Classics: Nunn and Co. stun #16 Marquette in The Pit
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Women’s basketball at the University of New Mexico has enjoyed a storied history that has seen numerous championships and classic moments along the way. With all of that success, the Lobo women’s basketball team has also laid claim to one of the largest and most loyal fan bases that consistently rank in the top of all NCAA Division I in terms of attendance, making The Pit one of the best venues to play a women’s basketball game in the country.
Those reasons were exactly what drew current head coach Mike Bradbury to UNM prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. That initial season, with a renewed sense of excitement around the program, Bradbury and the Lobos went 15-15 overall. Despite the record, it was clear that things were moving in a positive direction and in the following season, that came to fruition in a major way.
That year, the Lobos rewrote numerous offensive records, started the season with an 11-game winning streak, won over 20 games for the first time since 2014-15, fell one win shy of tying the program record and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT while serving as the host as well.
That trailblazing season for Bradbury as head coach of the Lobos featured one key game early on that was an instant classic at the time and now serves as the focus of this week’s Lobo Classics series. That game of course was the Lobos’ thrilling 88-87 win over then-ranked No. 16 Marquette in The Pit.
While the win itself was significant to the program and the remainder of that season, it was possibly even more significant on an individual basis for Jaisa Nunn.
Nunn was already a member of the UNM women’s basketball team when Bradbury came to the Lobos prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. The year before Bradbury arrived, Nunn played in 30 games and made 11 starts for the Lobos while averaging 7.2 ppg and 4.9 rpg while shooting over 54%. The following year, the first season together with Bradbury, Nunn was a key reserve playing in 21 games and making two starts before having her season come to an end due to a knee injury. That year, Nunn averaged 10.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg while shooting 48%.
After an offseason of rehab, Nunn overcame that season-ending injury in 2016-17 and was ready on time to embark on what turned out to be a breakout season in 2017-18. The first major test of that season for Nunn and the Lobos came in just the second game of the year as UNM hosted then-ranked No. 16 Marquette.
The game inside The Pit that year was a return trip made by Marquette after the Lobos played at their place the season prior. That meeting went the way of the Golden Eagles, 62-52. Marquette went on to finish that season 25-8 and advanced to their first NCAA Tournament since 2011 after they won the Big East Tournament Championship.
— New Mexico Lobos (@UNMLOBOS) November 14, 2017
In that first game against Marquette, Nunn came off the bench and scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in just 18 minutes of action. In the second game, Nunn was a starter and went on set a new single-game scoring record as she poured in 39 points on an impressive 14-of-15 shooting overall from the floor. Nunn was also nearly perfect from the charity stripe as she was 11-of-12 from the line. Not only was Nunn seemingly unstoppable scoring the ball, she was just as dominant on the boards as she hauled in 13 rebounds.
While all of those total numbers are impressive on their own, it was the last points scored, the last free throw and the last rebound by Nunn that made this game a classic.
In their season-opener, Marquette could not have started off the game any better against the Lobos as they ripped off a 9-0 run over the first 1:21 of the game. The Golden Eagles were 3-of-3 from the three-point line during that initial burst and went on to take several double-digit leads before closing out the quarter with a six-point lead, 29-23.
In the second quarter, the Golden Eagles took another double-digit lead a little more than halfway through the period, but the Lobos would not let the deficit grow any larger and battled to make it a four-point game heading into the locker room thanks to a pair of free throws made by Nunn in the final minute.
Despite trailing for the entirety of the first half, the Lobos were undeterred in the locker room and had supreme confidence that they could beat Marquette.
The Lobos would get the first possession of the third quarter and suddenly it was just a two-point game as Nunn made good on a layup. That was the closest that the Lobos had been to Marquette since the 6:25 mark of the first quarter when another Nunn layup brought the Lobos to within a bucket. As they did time, the Golden Eagles would not allow their lead to shrink any lower and answered back with a quick 4-0 burst to build their lead to six points.
Marquette would remain in the lead for nearly the remainder of the third quarter, but a 6-0 UNM run that started at the 1:41 mark and ended at the 36 second mark gave the Lobos their first lead of the game at 64-63. Twenty seconds of game time later, Nunn extended that run to 8-0 as she knocked down a pair of free throws. The Lobos suddenly after trailing for the better part of three quarters now had a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Rolling with confidence and the vocal support of 4,169 in attendance, the Lobos played from ahead for the first part of the fourth quarter and held leads as large of seven points on a pair of occasions. The last of those occasions, however, went away over course of a 1:45 of game time as the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run to reclaim the lead, 75-74, with 5:04 remaining on the clock.
A quick answer on the other end of the court by the Lobos broke the run and put the Lobos back on top with 4:42 to go. The Lobos would maintain a lead over the Golden Eagles over the next two minutes of action. With just under two minutes left to play, a fastbreak layup by Nunn gave the Lobos a three-point lead, 85-82, but on the ensuing possession the Golden Eagles knocked down the last of their 13 three-pointers to tie the game at 85-all.
Neither team scored over the next minute, but with 14 seconds left, the Golden Eagles had the ball and drove in for a layup. That shot drew iron and was rebounded by Marquette. On that rebound, there was a foul and Marquette’s Lauren Van Kleunen went to the line for a pair of free throws. Van Kleunen would make both shots putting the Golden Eagles up by two points with 13.6 seconds remaining.
This would give the Lobos the ball back with the shot clock turned off and the opportunity to take the game’s final shot.
Following the free throw, Bradbury called a timeout to advance the ball and draw up that final play. With fouls to give, Marquette elected to foul twice after the Lobos inbounded the ball to senior guard Cherise Beynon. Both of those fouls managed to knock off about five seconds of game time.
Now with just seven seconds left in regulation, the Lobos got the ball back into the hands of Beynon who then drove baseline for a contested layup. Just as Marquette’s layup moments earlier drew iron, Beynon’s layup attempt hit the rim as well. Fortunately for the Lobos, Nunn was positioned perfectly on the opposite block and was able to grab the offensive rebound and in the same motion, put the ball back up.
Nunn’s put-back was good for the tying basket. Nunn, however, would not see the ball go through the net as she went to her back following a clear out attempt by the Golden Eagle player in front of her. It was not until the roar of the crowd and enthusiastic teammates coming to help her up that Nunn realized she was going to the free throw line with a chance to put the Lobos ahead with just 1.8 seconds left.
Toeing the free throw line with the game on the line, Nunn, who had made 10-of-11 previous free throws went through her normal routine and calmly sank the attempt, giving the Lobos the lead, 88-87.
Following the make by Nunn, Marquette called a timeout to advance the ball and set up for the final shot of the game. Out of the timeout, the Golden Eagles got the ball in about 10 feet beyond the top of the arc where Allazia Blockton caught and shot all in one motion. Blockton’s potential game-winner beat the buzzer and nearly went in but clanked off the back iron and into the arms of the Lobos; putting the finishing touches on a thrilling victory.
The win for the Lobos over a ranked opponent was the first since 2010 when UNM beat No. 25 SMU. The Lobos would go on to win their next nine games in a row following the Marquette victory as they began their season on the aforementioned 11-game winning streak. That streak was tied for the longest in program history both overall and to start a season.
Nunn went on to be All-Mountain West and ended her junior season as the league’s second leading scorer at 17.0 ppg and the top rebounder at 10.2 per game. A near automatic double-double machine that season, Nunn recorded 19 such games en route to averaging the season double-double. She would also become the 22nd player in program history to score over 1,000 career points, doing so in the WNIT against Rice. By season’s end, Nunn was also just the 16th player at UNM to have at least 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds.
About Lobo Classics
The goal of the “Lobo Classics” series is to highlight some of the greatest moments in the history of UNM Athletics. These types of moments can consist of specific games, individual performances, record-breaking achievements or even entire championship seasons. It is our intention that during this period of uncertainty, we can bring some joy and happiness to our unwaveringly loyal fans that make up Lobo Nation!
As part of this endeavor, Lobo Athletics wants to make this an interactive project and are opening up for suggestions from Lobo fans everywhere. Fans can make suggestions that they would like to see highlighted in “Lobo Classics” by tweeting to @UNMLobos and using the hashtag #LoboClassics. Fans can also submit suggestions through email: email@example.com.