Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Lobos women beat Grand Canyon 92-72, advance in WNIT | Sports

ALBUQUERQUE — It’s not the field of 64 they were hoping for, but the Lobos did their best to treat it like a big dance.

Getting a big night from starting lineup of five seniors, the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team hammered visiting Grand Canyon 92-72 in Wednesday night’s opening round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

The Lobos (25-9) advance to next week’s round of 32 where they will face the winner of Thursday’s California Baptist-San Diego game. The site and date of that game will be determined by WNIT officials after Thursday’s contest.

UNM had no trouble moving on. Three Lobos finished with at least

20 points, led by LaTascya Duff’s 27. She made half of her team’s 14 3-pointers while Jaedyn De La Cerda had four of her own. De La Cerda finished with 22 points and Shaiquel McGruder

Wednesday’s game was never in doubt. The Lobos erupted for 52 first-half points, getting all but two of those from the five seniors in the starting lineup.

UNM attacked Grand Canyon’s pressing defense and used the Antelopes’ aggression to get open looks from the outside.

“The whole key to the game was we had to be able to play against that pressure and not turn it over,” said UNM coach Mike Bradbury. “When you do that you’re going to get open shots and, you know, we were able to play HORSE there. Good news for us is Tae and Jae lit ’em up.”

The Lobos committed just 14 turnovers while playing outstanding defense of their own. They turned 16 Antelope miscues into 24 points.

The Lobos opened a 20-point lead when De La Cerda launched a 3-pointer that bounced off the front of the rim and high off the backboard before falling in to make it 47-27 late in the first half. It grew to 23 on another

3 less than 90 seconds later by Duff.

The margin grew to as many as

31 late in the third quarter before Bradbury emptied his bench and allowed the Lopes to make it a more cosmetic 20-point loss by outscoring UNM 24-13 in the final period.

Grand Canyon called off its press by the middle of the second quarter after the Lobos turned the game into a rout by getting red-hot from the outside.

“I thought our decision-making was great and that started with Jaedyn and LaTora [Duff],” Bradbury said.

The loss ends the most successful season in Grand Canyon’s history. With 22 wins and second-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference, the Lopes did get a team-high

22 points from Tiarra Brown.

In the end, Bradbury was just happy to see his team’s outside shots finally fall with regularity. The Lobos stumbled down to the finish line in the regular season and Mountain West tournament by struggling to consistently bury 3-pointers. Wednesday was different.

“This looks more like us,” he said. “It was good to see.”

NOTES

Friendly confines: There were six games in the WNIT on Tuesday. The home team won five by an average margin of 16.4 points. The lone exception was Kent State’s win at Youngstown State.

The Mountain West Conference has four teams in the field with two opening at home (UNM and Wyoming) and two on the road (Air Force and Colorado State). All four teams are on the same side of the bracket, although UNM and CSU are in one 16-team “region” while Air Force and Wyoming are together in the other. Potentially the MWC could send two teams to the WNIT final four.

Edge of history: The Lobos’ 25th win of the season marked the second time in Bradbury’s six seasons with the program he has reached that figure. The last was in 2017-18 when his Lobos reached the third round of the WNIT. He’s one win away from tying his career high-water mark of 26 set in 2013-14 when he was at Wright State.

He also has 119 wins at UNM’s coach, second-most of all time behind Don Flanagan’s 340. The Lobos haven’t 26 games in a season since Flanagan led UNM to a 26-5 mark and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2004-05.

No Lobos team has ever won 27 in a single season.

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