Jan. 14—LARAMIE — A hot start from the floor didn't seem sustainable for the New Mexico women's basketball team Thursday evening, but it was.
The Lobos made their first five field goal attempts and were 3 for 4 from beyond the arc in the first five minutes of the game. With 4 minutes, 16 seconds to play, the Lobos were 8 for 9 from the field and held a 19-12 lead.
They turned that into an 85-76 victory over the University of Wyoming in the Cowgirls' first home game since Dec. 12. New Mexico finished the game shooting 57.6% from the field and 52% from the 3-point line.
Even with the Cowgirls scoring 15 points above their average and McKinley Bradshaw tying her career-high with 27 points, the Cowgirls couldn't keep pace.
"They're playing really, really well right now. Probably as good as anybody that's playing," Cowgirls coach Gerald Mattinson said. "They haven't had a break and you could tell, they just kind of kept going. A couple of kids that that we were hoping to miss some 3s early actually hit some 3s and that ended up having us change what we wanted to do (defensively)."
Quinn Weidemann hit a much needed 3-pointer to cut the Cowgirl deficit to 19-15 late in the first frame, but the Lobos closed out the period on a 7-2 run.
Bradshaw got a shot to fall to start the second quarter, but Paula Reus was quick to answer for the Lobos. Reus scored the first five Lobos points, sparking an 8-0 run which forced a Cowgirls timeout with 6:21 left in the half with UW trailing 34-19. New Mexico didn't relinquish its double-digit advantage for the remainder of the half, leading by as much as 18 and going into the locker room with a 46-31 lead.
Three different Lobos scored in double figures in the first half as they shot 59.4% from the field and 58.2% from the outside. Shaiquel McGruder finished with 14 first half points, tying her season average. She had a team-high 26 points.
New Mexico found success at times simply by spreading the Cowgirls out on defense and using an open paint to its advantage. When the shots weren't falling from the outside, the Lobos didn't struggle to get anything to fall around the basket.
"Due to the lack of communication, we made it difficult on ourselves," Bradshaw said. "Going forward I suspect we'll be able to adapt a little bit better to situations like that but, (Thursday), we couldn't get in sync with one another and we couldn't play together on the defensive end and it definitely hurt us."
Unlike the first half, the Cowgirls were able to get out and run in the third quarter after forcing the Lobos to miss some shots in an attempt to use the altitude to their advantage. However, with the Cowgirls missing three consecutive contests because of COVID-19 protocols, they were a little winded themselves.
"A few of us were really gassed," Bradshaw said. "That was our game plan — trying to run hard and trying to get them running faster at altitude, but a few of us were pretty tired throughout the game."
It helped UW go on a small run and a triple from Ola Ustowska with 5:00 left in the third put the Cowgirls' deficit in single digits for the first time since early in the second quarter, but New Mexico responded by making five of its final seven shots to close out the period while still clinging to its double-digit lead.
Latascya Duff helped the Lobos start the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run with a pair of 3s as the Lobos maintained their lead to improve to 14-4 overall and 5-0 in Mountain West conference play.
Despite not holding a lead for the entire contest, the Cowgirls gave themselves a chance late and trailed 81-71 with 3:51 to play, but couldn't get enough shots to fall down the stretch.
Ustowska added 14 points and shot 4 for 7 from the outside and Grace Ellis netted 14 points.
"I'm not happy with the loss, but I'm happy with us hanging in and I'm happy with us scoring points still," Mattinson said. "I thought we were scoring pretty well before the COVID break. I'm pleased with the way we fought through things ... I think we're going to be OK, I really do."
UW (5-7, 1-2) hosts Air Force at 2 p.m. Saturday.
NEW MEXICO 85, WYOMING 76
New Mexico........ 26 20 19 20 — 85
Wyoming............. 17 15 22 22 — 76
New Mexico: McGruder 11-414 1-1 26, De Le Cerda 7-12 3-4 19, Anderson 5-10 0-0 12, LaTa. Duff 3-5 0-0 9, LaTo. Duff 3-7 0-0 7, Reus 5-8 0-0 12, Cumber 0-2 0-0 0, Augmon 0-0 0-0 0, Curtis 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 34-59 4-5 85
Wyoming: Bradshaw 10-21 4-6 27, Olson 2-3 0-0 5, Weidemann 1-7 2-2 5, Sanchez Ramos 11-6 0-0 3, Fertig 1-4 0-0 2, Ustowska 5-9 0-1 14, Ellis 5-10 3-3 14, Salazar 2-3 0-2 4, Mellema 1-3 0-0 2, Barnes 0-1 0-0 0 Totals: 28-67 9-14 76
3-pointers: UNM 13-25 (McGruder 3-4, LaTa. Duff 3-4, Reus 2-2, Anderson 2-4, De La Cerda 2-5, LaTo. Duff 1-3, Curtis 0-1, Cumber 0-2); UW 11-30 (Ustowska 4-7, Bradshaw 3-8, Olson 1-2, Sanchez Ramos 1-2, Ellis 1-3, Weidemann 1-5, Salazar 0-1, Mellema 0-1, Barnes 0-1). Rebounds: UNM 30 (Anderson 9); UW 36 (Olson 6). Assists: UNM 15 (Anderson 5, LaTo. Duff 5); UW 15 (Sanchez Ramos 4). Turnovers: UNM 15 (McGruder 3, De La Cerda 3); UW 12 (Four with 2). Blocks: UNM 4 (McGruder 3); UW 1 (Weidemann). Steals: UNM 3 (Three with 2); UW 8 (Olson 5). Team fouls: UNM 16; UW 8. Fouled out: none
Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.