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Cold discomfort: Aztecs oust icy Lobo women in MWC tournament quarterfinal

Mar. 11—LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Sometimes basketball really is a simple game.

Such was the unpleasant truth for the University of New Mexico women Tuesday. The Lobos simply couldn't make baskets when they needed them, San Diego State did.

UNM missed its first 10 3-point shots, fell into a deep early hole and never got out in a 67-56 quarterfinal loss at the Mountain West tournament. The Lobos finished 3-for-17 from beyond the arc, while the Aztecs went 8-for-20 and hit the ones that mattered at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Nyah Wilson scored a game-high 22 points for UNM (21-11), but she got little support on the offensive end. Aniyah Augmon was the only other Lobo to reach double figures with 10 points. UNM's other three starters combined for just 10.

San Diego State (21-12) got 14 points apiece from Adryana Quezada and Jada Lewis and 12 from Kim Villalobos, who also racked up 14 rebounds. The Aztecs dominated the glass, outrebounding UNM 45-25.

The tone was set early as SDSU started 5-of-6 from the floor and raced to a 13-1 lead. The Lobos spent the rest of the game playing catch-up.

"I don't think we were aggressive enough in the first half," Augmon said. "We were more aggressive and I thought we played good defense in the second half, but that first half hurt us. We've been in that position and come back a lot this season. This time we couldn't."

Lobos coach Mike Bradbury agreed.

"In the first half we rushed some things, took uncharacteristically bad shots and San Diego State was the more aggressive team," he said. "We competed in the second half but just couldn't seem to hit shots — even when we got good, open looks."

It was a frustrating ending to a successful conference season for the second-seeded Lobos, who were knocked out by SDSU in the quarterfinals for a second straight year. The loss dashed UNM's hopes of earning an NCAA Tournament berth and leaves them awaiting news of a likely WNIT berth.

"I think we'll turn the page and be ready," Augmon said. "This one hurts more than most, but this team has stayed together and put tough losses behind us all year. We can do it again."

While UNM stumbled out of the starting gates Tuesday, San Diego State came out firing one day after routing San Jose State in the tournament's opening round. Bradbury believed playing Sunday helped the Aztecs shake off any postseason nerves.

"It's always an advantage on the second day," he said. "When you come back to play the third day, it's a disadvantage, but (the Aztecs) came out firing early and really put us on our heels."

The Lobos managed to weather the early storm, cutting the deficit to 18-13 after one quarter and getting as close as a four-point margin several times in the second. But SDSU put together an 11-2 run late in the half to take a 39-28 lead to intermission.

UNM was 0-6 from 3-point range in the first half and missed six of its 14 free throws. Aztecs coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said her team did an effective job executing its defensive plan.

"New Mexico has two of the best guards in the league in Wilson and Augmon," she said. "We knew we would struggle to guard them, so we wanted to avoid fouling, guard their 3-point shooters and eliminate second-chance points. For the most part, I thought we did that."

UNM amped up its intensity in the second half and managed to stay within striking distance in spite of its cold shooting. Hulda Joaquim, who scored nine points off the bench, came up with a steal and layup to get the Lobos to within 54-45 with seven minutes left.

But Meghan Fiso and Lewis soon hit dagger 3-pointers to keep the Lobos at arm's length. UNM simply could not string enough baskets together to sustain a comeback.

"It's hard because this tournament is what you look forward to," Bradbury said, "but this in no way changes my opinion of this team. It's still been the most fun team to coach in my eight years and I'm proud of everything they've done. San Diego State was exceptional on defense tonight and they shot the ball better than we did. Give them credit."