UNM advances to second round of NIT

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By The Staff

Cherise Beynon scored a game-high 33 points and N’Dea Flye hit two momentum-changing three-pointers late to lead the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team to a hard-fought 82-80 win over Saint Mary’s in the first round of the WNIT.

Playing in Johnson Center on the main campus of UNM due to a schedule conflict in their usual venue of Dreamstyle Arena, the Lobos found themselves at home as they held off a furious Gael rally to advance to second-round action vs. Rice on Tuesday.

“We held our composure, even when there were plenty of opportunities not to,” UNM head coach Mike Bradbury said. “I thought they were great. They held themselves together and made it a place to win.”

Back in the WNIT for the sixth time overall and first time since 2010, the Lobos made sure they’d get to keep playing as they relied on their pressure defense and a boisterous crowd for the victory.

The crowd, announced at 1,428 fans, was instrumental down the stretch. Packed in the old home of the UNM men’s basketball team, the crowd’s intensity at Johnson rivaled that of many crowds in The Pit.

New Mexico forced 24 Saint Mary’s turnovers on the evening, which translated into 30 points off turnovers.

That helped offset the team’s disadvantage on the boards to a taller SMC squad.

“They were just really good at things that we’re not,” Bradbury said. “In turn, we were also really good at things that they weren’t either. We had to beat them up in the turnover battle, because we knew that we would get beat up a little bit on the boards.”

UNM ended up with a 30-14 advantage on points off turnovers, mitigating the Gaels’ 19-8 advantage in second-chance points that was fueled by Saint Mary’s rebounding margin.

Beynon also contributed heavily to New Mexico’s efforts, logging her fourth 30-point game of the season.

She finished shooting 5-of-10 from three-point range and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line and added eight rebounds, five assists and game-high four steals.

“We knew that Saint Mary’s was going to be a very physical team,” Beynon said. “That’s what they are known for, so it feels really good to finally get a tough win under our belts.”

Jaisa Nunn added 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and nine rebounds for the Lobos before fouling out with 4:08 left in the game.

“We played the last three or four minutes without Jaisa, and that’s hard for our team to do,” Bradbury said.

Tesha Buck also scored in double figures with 10 points, chipping six assists and three steals, while Flye finished with eight points and two key three-pointers late in the contest, which stopped the momentum that Saint Mary’s seemed to be building throughout the second half.

New Mexico returns to action and Dreamstyle Arena at 7 p.m. on Tuesday as it advances to play Rice in the second round of the WNIT. Rice was a 71-60 winner over Texas State on Thursday.