Prologue: When I got home after the Hartford game last weekend I sat down intending to write a recap of the Lobos 72-65 win. It was—I thought—a relatively straight forward story. The Lobos dominated on the boards (a 45-27 advantage), and the Hawks had no answer for Jaisa (11 for 18 shooting, 32 points and 11 rebounds), or Nike (8 offensive boards, 11 total, and the most energy on a bad ankle I have seen in many years). UNM started slowly, turning the ball over too often against Hartford’s 1-2-2 pressing zone (similar to Auburn’s, but with more aggression and slightly lesser athleticism), and then opened up a 22 point lead in the third quarter when they started taking care of the ball better. Just to keep things interesting—and the coaches agitated—they reverted to the high-turnover version of play in the last six minutes and let Hartford cut the lead back down to single digits, but it never felt like the Lobos would lose.
Since others have synopsized that in more detail already, I put that story aside and dwelled for a while on “What is this team, really?” So relying upon what I saw, what others have pointed out, and a little biased fan perspective, I thought I would wait to see a road game against an athletic Houston team, and then do an updated version of “What I think I learned yesterday”, subject to revision as the season evolves. So Part I of this story is the Houston game summary, and Part II will be (tomorrow I hope) the “What do we think we know now” part.
Early in Saturday’s game at Houston it looked like more of the same as transpired against Hartford–Houston didn’t play a 1-2-2 zone, but they pressed, and they were about as quick as the Lobos. They caused turnovers (and the Lobos committed a few that were self inflicted). The Lobo offences was “Throw the ball to Jaisa” as we beat their pressure and she beat them down the floor to discover—shockingly!! (not)—that they couldn’t defend Jaisa that way either.
At the 8:06 point of the second quarter Jaisa stole the ball and was fouled on her shot, hitting the free throw for a 30-17 Lobo lead. Jaisa had scored the last five points and 15 of the Lobos’ 30. When Jaisa was not beating them inside, Nike or AT were. Almost all the Lobo scoring was within 5 feet of the basket, and most of it by beating the Houston pressure relatively easily. It looked like UNM was going to open up a 20+ point lead on the Cougars as they did against the Hartford Hawks.
But not so fast. Houston called off the “press every possession”, and from then on applied a variety of defensive looks, still pressing effectively at times. They paid FAR more attention to Jaisa, doubling her much of the time. The effect was to slow down UNM (“slow” is a relative term”) and make the Lobos play much more half court offense. Houston didn’t press full court the rest of the quarter, but they still generated about a turnover a minute, and in the half-court the Lobo offence stagnated and became far too predictable. The Lobos only took 5 field goal attempts in the last five minutes of the quarter—all by Aisia—and only made two. The rest of the offensive players started standing around watching her, and the Cougars outscored the Lobos 21-13 to reduce the visitors’ lead to 43-38 at the half. Houston was hot and that helped as well—they went 9 of 15 from the field.
The third quarter started the same way with Aisia taking two of the first three shots, missing both. She also had three turnovers to go with a rebound and a steal. After that Mike Bradburry sat her down for a few minutes with 6 min left in the quarter and the Lobo lead down to three, 45-42. She got a three minute break to recollect her poise, and then back into the fray. She would wind up on the court for 43 minutes all told. Houston’s shooting cooled in Q3–60% to 32%–but UNM froze, going 4 for 21. Put the turnovers and cold shooting together and in the last 6 minutes of the third quarter, Houston outscored the Lobos 13-7 to take a three point lead, 55-52. UNM looked disorganized and stationary too many times in the quarter, and had lost all momentum.
The Lobos got a little better ball movement with passes into and then out of the post to get good shots early. Ahlise hit a three for the first score of the 4th quarter—assist from Jaisa–and then a basket +1 by Jaisa on a feed from Nike. Lobos back ahead by one. And there it stayed, 58-57, for over two minutes as both teams missed shots and turned the ball over. The one area the Lobos kept an advantage in was rebounds, and the second chance opportunities let them slowly extend the lead to 5 points, 64-59, with three minutes left. Houston closed to within one, but Ahlise’s second triple opened up a 4 pt lead with 57 seconds remaining. Angela Harris hit an immediate three for Houston (she was 2 of 14 on threes for the game) and the lead was one again. UNM missed one more shot, and Houston missed a couple. Time out, seven seconds left, Lobos up one and about to inbound the ball. They get it to Jaisa who is fouled. The best free throw shooter on the team with two shots to ice it—she misses the second and Houston has life with five seconds remaining. They call time out and advance the ball to half court, and the Lobos play good defense for four seconds and force Angela Harris to take a poor three point shot that falls short—but she was fouled. Three free throws to win it. Hits the first, misses the second, hits the third. Tied at 68. Overtime.
The overtime started the way the game started—with the Lobos outrunning the Cougars. Aisia breaks loose and is fouled—makes both. Jaisa gets a defensive rebound and starts a fast break resulting in Jayla Everett’s three point basket. They turn Houston over and Ahlise drives for a basket. 7-0 Lobo run to start the quarter. It looks like it will get better for UNM when a Houston player looked to travel on a rebound under the Lobo basket, but nothing was called and led to Houston’s first basket of the OT. Lobo turnover, two more Houston pints. Steal by Houston on a sloppy Lobo pass, two more points. Missed lay-up, Lobos, another basket and Houston completed a 8-0 run of their own to go up by a point.
Time out Lobos, 18 seconds remaining, down one. Aisia isolates, gets fouled, and hits one of two to tie it with 10 seconds left. Houston takes a time out, diagrams a play, but the Lobos defend it well and Houston misses a tough shot at the buzzer. Tied at 76. Double OT. The Lobos have stared down at least three opportunities to fold (as has Houston—give them credit too).
Second OT, scoring is a little harder to come by as each team turns it over and only get one basket in the first 2+ minutes. Then Aisia’s 11th assist of the game gets the ball to an open Ahlise who drains her third three pointer and puts UNM up 81-78. Free throws cut it back to one, 81-80, then Aisia takes on the entire Cougar offense: FT Aisia. Pull-up jumper, Aisia. Three, Aisia. She outscored Houston 6-4 over the next minute and a half. Lobos up 87-84 with 42 seconds left. Houston gets—and misses—two more threes (they were 9 for 44 on the game), and Jayla hits two free throws (she had 17 points and 8 rebounds for the day) as time runs out for the 89-84 final score. And some very tired players on both teams.
Jaisa: 21 points, 12 rebounds, & a lot more than the two steals she was credited with. Additionally, she essentially forced Houston out of their preferred defensive scheme because of the havoc she wrecked when they tried to press.
Aisia: a triple-double in only her fourth game as a point guard (she played shooting guard in her years at Kansas). 28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists. Actually a quadruple double, as she had 13 TOs as well.
Three point shooting: 40% on 8 for 20, with 6 of the 8 baskets from a pair of freshmen, Jayla and Ahlise with three each.
A good defensive presence by Nike, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. And bothered Houston’s post player Alyssa Okoene (a transfer from North Carolina) most the game. Okoene only shot 3 for 9, almost all right near the basket.
18 offensive rebounds, and 58 overall. Outrebounding Houston by 15. (Good thing, as the Lobos committed 34 TOs to Houston’s 23).
Next: Oklahoma on Wednesday at the Pit.