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Icy start dooms Lobo women in loss at Colorado State

Jan. 13—Too much to overcome.

The University of New Mexico women's basketball team staged another fourth-quarter rally Saturday, but this one proved too little, too late. The Lobos trimmed a 17-point deficit to four but could not get over the hump in a 61-55 loss to Colorado State in Fort Collins.

Stacked against the visitors on Saturday:

—Rams star guard McKenna Hofschild, who shoved the Lobos into an early hole and finished with 23 points.

—Another dreadful first-half shooting performance by UNM, which started 1-for-10 from the field and ended up 7-for-30 (23%) at intermission.

—Controversial calls by officials, one of which resulted in a key five-point swing for Colorado State. Three UNM baskets were waved off due to offensive foul calls.

Despite all that, UNM trailed just 54-50 after a Viané Cumber 3-pointer with 2:51 left. The margin was again four points with 30 seconds left, but the Rams' Sydney Mech hit two free throws and UNM turned the ball over on its final possession.

Nyah Wilson scored 17 points, and Aniyah Augmon scored 15 to pace New Mexico.

"We fought back after a bad start and I thought our players competed," Lobos coach Mike Bradbury said in a postgame phone interview. "We had the score where we wanted it, in the 50s, and gave ourselves a chance at the end. We just didn't hit enough shots in the first half and it cost us."

It was the second straight dismal first half for UNM, which came from behind to defeat Utah State 71-67 on Wednesday after trailing 28-25 at halftime. Saturday's start was worse, as Hofschild and the Rams raced to an 18-2 lead. The margin was 21-9 after one quarter.

Hofschild, the MWC's preseason player of the year, scored CSU's first eight points and had 10 in the first quarter. She was largely neutralized the rest of the game, scoring 13 points (with five coming at the foul line).

"We didn't really make an adjustment," Bradbury said, "we just started crowding her the way we were supposed to. Nyah Wilson is a good defender and did a good job on (Hofschild) overall. It was those first five minutes. We didn't accomplish anything on either end."

UNM's shooters continued to struggle in the second quarter, but its defense came to life. The Rams (11-4, 2-2) managed just one basket over the first nine-plus minutes and their lead shrunk to 25-18 at halftime.

Things started to get interesting in the third quarter. The Rams extended their lead to 32-19 on Sanna Strom's layup, but UNM answered with an 8-0 run, getting back-to-back driving layups from Wilson.

Strom hit a 3-pointer to make it 35-27 when officiating took center stage. Augmon scored underneath with contact and the baseline official signaled to count the basket and called a defensive foul. Another official near midcourt signaled an offensive foul.

After a media timeout, the basket and and-one opportunity were waved off. The call was changed to a flagrant foul on Augmon. Hofschild came off the bench to hit two free throws for a 37-27 CSU lead.

"It should've been a three-point play," Bradbury said. "They completely botched the call. We're able to watch video on the bench and we saw the same replay (officials) saw. I have no idea how they came to that conclusion."

UNM trailed 41-30 after three quarters but finally found an offense spark in the fourth. Augmon scored eight early points as the teams traded runs. A Hofschild layup capped a 7-0 CSU surge that made the score 51-38 with 6:35 left.

The Lobos bounced back with a 10-3 run capped by back-to-back 3's by Cumber and Wilson that cut the Rams' lead to 54-50. But UNM could not get any closer. Cumber, who missed her first eight shots in the contest, hit her last four and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

UNM outrebounded CSU 45-29, hit the same number of field goals (22) and outscored the hosts 30-18 in the paint. But the Rams hit 10 3-pointers to the Lobos' five and posted a 25-0 advantage in bench points.

The Lobos return home to face Wyoming on Wednesday at 7 p.m.