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Strong Second Half Propels Lobos Past Colonels

by Allison Weiss

THIBODAUX, La.— The Lobo women’s basketball team opened the third quarter with a 16-0 run, which proved to be the difference as New Mexico concluded its road trip with a 72-55 win over Nicholls on Tuesday night.

UNM outscored Nicholls 25-11 in the third quarter and 42-25 in the final 20 minutes, using defensive pressure to force eight steals and 13 points off of turnovers in the third and fourth quarters combined.

Amaya Brown, Shaiquel McGruder and LaTascya Duff all had strong performances, with Duff finishing with a game-high 20 points, a team-high five assists and three steals, McGruder with a double-double behind 14 rebounds and 15 points and added three blocks, and Brown with 15 points, a career-high five steals, a block and seven rebounds. Of Duff’s 20 points, 18 came on three-pointers, and was the 44th career game that Duff has made multiple three-pointers and 16th time that she’s scored 20 or more points. Further, Tuesday was McGruder’s 10th career double-double and her second of the season.

UNM had 14 steals overall in the game, and has recorded double-digit steals in all seven games this season, bringing the season total to 96 with an average of 13.7 steals per game. LaTora Duff joined Brown with a career-high five steals in the game.

The Lobos led 1-0 before the ball was even tipped as LaTora made a free throw on a technical foul issued to Nicholls for having an improper shot clock, and Paula Reus quickly made it 4-0 UNM on a three on UNM’s first possession. The Colonels responded to close within one at 6-5, but a LaTora free throw and LaTascya three-pointer kept the Lobos in front, with the Lobos holding a 16-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. LaTascya opened the game with two three-pointers to lead all scorers with six points.

UNM’s lead expanded at the start of the second with another LaTascya three and a Brown three-pointer that pushed the Lobos’ lead to eight at 22-14 less than two minutes into the quarter. However, the Colonels closed the quarter with a 9-2 run to tie the game up at 30 at the half.

McGruder grabbed seven boards in the second quarter to give her 10 rebounds at the break and had six points and two blocks in the first two quarters. LaTascya led with 11 points at the half with three, three-pointers.

The third quarter is when the Lobos put the game away for good, with McGruder scoring the first five points for the Lobos to complete the double-double and LaTascya adding another three-pointer for a quick 8-0 run in the first 2:15 of the quarter. The run continued out of the media timeout with a McGruder layup that pushed the lead to double digits for the first time in the game, and four-straight points from Brown and two free throws from LaTora made it 46-30 in favor of UNM.

Nicholls scored its first point of the quarter on a free throw at the 4:50 mark of the third, with the Colonels hitting a three on their next possession to get as close as 12. Five consecutive points by Nia Johnson put the margin to 17 at 53-36 with 2:05 remaining, and an Aniyah Augmon layup as the quarter came to a close gave UNM a 14-point lead heading in to the final quarter at 55-41.

UNM outscored Nicholls 16-2 in the paint and 9-0 in fast-break points, shooting 50.0 percent (10-20) in the quarter, led by McGruder with seven points.

Brown accounted for the first five points of the fourth quarter on two free throws, a layup off of an offensive rebound and another free throw as UNM’s lead expanded to its largest point of 19 points. Nicholls made an attempt to climb back into the game with a 6-0 run that closed the margin to 12 (67-55) with 3:16 left in the game, but a LaTascya three-pointer and Reus layup ended any further threat. Reus’ layup with 2:16 was the final basket scored by either team for the final 17-point margin.

LaTascya closed with two more three-pointers in the fourth and had two steals, with Brown adding five more points and a steal to her night’s total.

With the win, the Lobos improve to 4-3 on the season and return home to begin a three-game homestand starting Sunday with No. 14 Arizona.