The Pit West just lost one of its reasons for being.
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team was eliminated in Monday’s quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
The Lobos’ 69-68 loss to San Diego State came on a day when they led or were tied for all but 45 seconds of the game.
All five Lobos starters finished in double figures, led by 15 points apiece from Shai McGruder and Viane Cumber. The pair also combined for 11 rebounds.
UNM led nearly the entire game, building a nine-point cushion in the first half. SDSU stayed close the whole way, hovering within a possession or two for the majority of the final three quarters.
The Lobos remained in front, 54-53, after three quarters. San Diego State had three straight possessions early in the fourth quarter to take its first lead of the game but failed to convert each time.
Aztecs guard Sophia Ramos did hit a 3-pointer moments later to tie it at 56. The game was tied three more times in the ensuing minutes without SDSU taking the lead.
The Aztecs finally went in front in the final minute when Asia Avinger used a reverse spin move in the lane, rattling in a shot from a few feet out to make it 69-68 with 45 seconds left.
“Give San Diego State a lot of credit,” said UNM coach Mike Bradbury. “You know, it was a good, hard-fought game. You know, they got one more basket than we did. I thought our kids played hard enough and good enough to win the game and came up a little short.”
SDSU’s Yummy Morris partially blocked a shot by Shai McGruder six seconds later, but Morris turned it over with 13 seconds left when her pass to Ramos was picked off by Viane Cumber in the paint. Rather than setting up a final shot by burning their final timeout, Bradbury elected to have his team go for the win.
LaTora Duff dove the ball downcourt and passed to a cutting Aniyah Augmon under the basket with four seconds left. Augmon’s shot was off the mark, preserving SDSU’s win and ending the Lobos’ run.
“Everything was perfect,” Bradbury said. “I mean, we got a layup unguarded from a player that always makes them, that makes a higher percentage of those than anybody else we have on the team and that I trust in that situation on that shot more than anybody we got.”
UNM came into the game as the conference’s No. 4 seed. The Lobos and Aztecs were meeting in the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
UNM (20-11) must now wait to see if it will receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The field will be announced Sunday evening after the brackets are set for the NCAA Tournament earlier Sunday.
The UNM men’s team opens play in the MWC Tournament at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Wyoming. The Lobos (21-10) enter as the No. 6 seed and need to win four games in four days to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
If they win Wednesday, they’ll face No. 3 Utah State in a 9:30 p.m. Thursday quarterfinal.
The Lobos received some good news Monday. Senior guard Jaelen House was voted onto the MWC’s first team by the media. Forward Morris Udeze and guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. were named to the second team. Udeze was also voted as the newcomer of the year.
San Jose State’s Omari Moore was named player of the year while Spartans coach Tim Miles was named coach of the year.