LAS CRUCES, N.M. — In a wild, high-scoring affair, The University of New Mexico held a slim 94-91 lead over in-state foe New Mexico State with less than a minute and a half remaining in the game and the Lobos with the ball and the shot clock nearing zero.
UNM wasn’t getting a clear look as the ball made its way to the top of the key to Cherise Beynon with two seconds left on the shot clock. The senior took a dribble to her right and unleashed an off-balance 3-pointer while slightly fading away – and drained it to send a large Lobo crowd that made the drive south into a frenzy and solidify what would be a 101-93 victory over the Aggies on Saturday afternoon at the Pan American Center.
The victory moves the Lobos’ record to a still-perfect 9-0 on the season, equaling the best start in UNM history (1996-97). It’s also UNM’s first win in Las Cruces since Dec. 18, 2012 – snapping a three-game losing streak.
“We ran the clock down there and they stuffed our play on the screen and then Cherise makes a 30-foot fade away at the buzzer,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said. “That took the lead from three to six and that was about the game there. … It’s nice having the best player on the court.
“But we needed everybody. It was all hands on deck. We were running players in throughout the game to try and keep them fresh in this one. I’m proud of them.”
Beynon finished with a season-high 30 points, going 6-for-8 from beyond the arc (tying a career high for 3-pointers in the game) and going 12-for-19 from the field to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
“I was having a good shooting night so I was confident it could go in, but I was more just trying to get it to hit the rim so we didn’t have a turnover,” Beynon said of her 3-pointer late in the fourth. “I was hoping someone could get the rebound, but it went in. But we all shot the ball well today.”
As Beynon said, the Lobos were deadly accurate shooting the ball Saturday – including from beyond 3-point range. The Lobos went 15-for-22 from long distance – tied for the second-most 3-pointers in a game in UNM history, only behind the 18 3-point performance against Illinois on Nov. 26. Overall, UNM shot 50 percent from the field (37-for-74) as they reached the 100-point plateau for the second time this season. It’s the 10th time as a program the Lobos have reached 100 points and the fourth time they’ve done it on the road.
Along with Beynon’s all-around effort, freshman N’Dea Flye had the best game of her young Lobo career as the Oregon City, Oregon, native had a career-high 25 points to go along with five rebounds. Flye went 4-for-6 from 3-point range.
“You don’t see a lot of women’s games where the numbers get that high, so it was an amazing feeling to do that,” Flye said. “… I saw that they were sagging off on me on the first drive I took so my teammates told me I just got to shoot it.”
UNM couldn’t ask for much of a better start to the game as a Jaisa Nunn putback and back-to-back 3-pointers from Beynon gave the Lobos a quick 8-0 lead just 101 second into the contest.
But NMSU (2-5) didn’t go away as a furious first quarter ended with a Buck 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Lobos a 32-29 edge going into the second.
The Aggies took what would be its largest lead of the game at 46-42 with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter and led 48-46 before a Beynon bucket, a Buck 3-pointer and a Flye free throw ended the half on a 6-0 UNM run to give the Lobos a 52-48 lead at the break.
NMSU again took the lead in the third quarter at 62-59 before a 6-0 run by the Lobos capped by three points from Flye gave the Lobos the lead at 65-62. UNM’s lead grew to as much as nine points in the quarter (thanks to nine points from Madi Washington) before heading into the fourth up 77-69.
Like before, the Aggies got back into the game and took its final lead at 87-86 with 4:52 left in the contest. The game was tied at 89 when Nunn scored as she was fouled to take a 92-89 lead with 4:08 left.
UNM led 94-91 when Beynon hit the off-balance 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer and UNM sealed it by going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 21 seconds to come away with the 101-93 victory.
Five players finished in double figures for the Lobos with Latesha Buck (Mdewakanton Sioux) scoring 14 (going 4-for-5 from 3-point range), Nunn had 13 points and 13 rebounds while Alex Lapeyrolerie had 10.
UNM completes the season sweep of the Aggies for the first time since 2012 after defeating NMSU at home 86-75 on Nov. 18.
Bradbury added that all the UNM fans who made the drive down to Las Cruces showed why the Lobos have such a great fan base.
“When you are on the road and outnumber the home fans almost two-to-one – that shows you why we have the best fans in the country,” Bradbury said.
The Lobos have a chance to start 10-0 for the first time in program history 7 p.m. Wednesday as they host Texas Tech at Dreamstyle Arena – The Pit.