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LaTora Duff Delivers Game-Winning Three, McGruder Tallies Double-Double in Win over UNLV

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— There was no shortage of big moments in Monday night’s game against UNLV, but the Lobo women’s basketball team showed they were ready for the moment in a thrilling, gritty 71-68 win over the Lady Rebels.

In a game that had seven ties and four lead changes, UNM got the upper hand on its last possession in a tied 68-68 game with 5.4 seconds left as LaTora Duff hit a three-pointer from the top of the arc that hit nothing but net. UNLV had one final opportunity but missed its three-pointer and Duff fittingly grabbed the defensive board as the final buzzer sounded.

Duff finished with 14 points, with her lone three coming on the game-winning shot, and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line to go with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

The senior point guard was one of four Lobos to finish in double figures, with Shaiquel McGruder leading with 17 points and a season-high 15 rebounds for her fourth double-double on the season, of which nine of her points came in the fourth quarter after 4-for-4 shooting from the floor. McGruder was also perfect from the free-throw line, going 3-for-3 and also had two assists and a block. LaTascya Duff also was perfect from the line at 3-for-3 and finished with 14 points, making three, three-pointers.  Jaedyn De La Cerda was the fourth Lobo to finish in double figures with 15 points. As a team, the Lobos finished 15-for-17 at the free-throw line with four players perfect.

New Mexico came alive in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lady Rebels 27-18, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and 66.7 from three, its best percentages in a quarter in both categories, and was 5-for-5 from the line.

UNLV took control early in the game, building an 11-4 lead before the Lobos battled back with a McGruder layup, a LaTora fast-break three-pointer and a De La Cerda three to take the 12-11 lead. The Lady Rebels regained the lead at 14-12 with 3:30 remaining in the quarter and both teams had empty possessions until UNLV made a layup with 54 seconds left in the quarter to break the drought. Paula Reus closed the quarter with a three with 41 seconds to play for the final points and the 16-15 narrow lead for UNLV.

The Lobos again were in a deficit, the largest deficit of the game at nine (26-17) with 7:29 on the clock in the second quarter, but the Lobos’ resiliency prevailed, with LaTascya starting a 5-0 run on a jumper and LaTora taking advantage of an and-one opportunity to cut the lead to four. When the gap got up to eight at 30-22, LaTascya again started the comeback, hitting three free throws with McGruder hitting a pair of free throws to bring the game back within reach at 30-27. The teams traded a pair of three-pointers to close the quarter, with De La Cerda recording the final points of the quarter for the 33-30 halftime score.

UNM was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes, with McGruder accounting for nine rebounds and six points while LaTascya led the Lobos with eight points.

Both teams traded baskets to open the third quarter to keep it close, with the score being stuck at 35-34 UNLV for 1:41, before UNLV built back a seven-point margin with 2:44 left in the quarter. A layup by Reus and a De La Cerda layup made it a one-possession game, although the visitors held a six-point lead at the end of the third, 50-44.

McGruder took over in the fourth quarter, scoring six points early on, including a layup that brought UNM back to within two with 7:48 to play in the game and a jumper that tied the game at 52 with 6:59 left. After UNLV quieted the crowd with a three-pointer, De La Cerda answered with a three to create another tie before a LaTora fast-break layup put the Lobos in front.  It was UNM’s first lead since 12-11 in the first quarter.

A UNLV jumper tied the game, but McGruder scored on the next Lobo possession to reclaim the lead, finishing through the foul and converting at the line for the 60-57 Lobo lead. UNLV scored on its following possession to close within one but LaTascya drained a three-pointer to push the margin to four at 63-59 with a little over four minutes to play. UNLV tied the game at 65-65, followed by a LaTascya three-pointer and a Lady Rebel three-pointer for the final tie with 1:11 on the clock.

Both teams missed on their next possession, with Reus grabbing a defensive rebound with 20 seconds remaining to set up the final Lobo play.

As aforementioned, McGruder scored nine points in the fourth quarter, followed by seven from LaTora, six from LaTascya and five from De La Cerda. Reus played 9:55 of the final quarter and grabbed four rebounds to match McGruder’s total. UNM outrebounded UNLV in the fourth quarter 10-8.

With the win, UNM improves to 11-4 overall, 2-0 in conference play and 8-0 at home. Up next, the Lobos travel to Utah State to play the Aggies on Thursday, Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. MT.

Head Coach Mike Bradbury

LaTora Duff and Shaiquel McGruder