RENO, Nev. – Needing extra time to settle Wednesday night’s Mountain West contest between Nevada and New Mexico, the Wolf Pack edged the Lobos in overtime to earn an 86-78 victory.
For the Wolf Pack (14-12, 7-8 MW), that marks its fourth consecutive win and fifth in its last six games. Nevada has jumped from ninth in the conference standings to sixth in the last four games and is just one game back of hopping into the top five. The difference in this win as compared to the last three is Nevada held the lead at halftime, but still needed to mount a late comeback to earn the victory.
The Wolf Pack grabbed a nine-point advantage heading into halftime, but the third quarter was dominated by the Lobos (14-14, 5-10). New Mexico shot a game-best 55.6 percent from the field in that 10 minute span and outscored the Pack by a 25-11 margin to take a five-point lead into the fourth quarter.
It took a gritty effort in the fourth quarter to claw back into the game as neither team was dominant on offense. The difference maker though was getting to the free throw line, which Nevada did eight times and made seven of its eight attempts. New Mexico did not take a single shot from the foul line in the fourth quarter. The Pack cut the deficit to one with 7:35 still to play, but the Lobos had increased their lead to seven with 3:45 on the clock.
An and-one layup in the paint by senior Marguerite Effa with 2:14 to play sparked the Wolf Pack to a 6-0 run, which tied the game at 71. Nevada held New Mexico scoreless for the final 3:45 of regulation to aid in the comeback bid. With 29 seconds on the clock, sophomore Da’Ja Hamilton drew a foul call and hit both of her free throw attempts to tie the game at 71. The Lobos had a chance to hit the game winning shot on their final possession of regulation but missed the layup. On the other end Nevada picked up the rebound with eight seconds to go but Effa’s go-ahead layup bounced off the rim sending the game into overtime.
The overtime period belonged to Nevada as the Pack grabbed the lead on a pair of free throws by sophomore Essence Booker in the first minute and did not relinquish the lead from there. Nevada stretched its lead out to four multiple times but got a comfortable six-point cushion after a jumper from junior Miki’ala Maio with 52 seconds on the clock. After the Pack increased its lead to eight, the Lobos hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead back down to five with 29 seconds to play. The Pack hit three of its next four free throw attempts and did not allow New Mexico to score in the final 29 seconds to seal the win.
The Wolf Pack had five players score in double figures, led by Effa. Effa totaled 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting and added four rebounds. Junior Nia Alexander finished right behind Effa with a season-high 17 points and fell one rebound shy of posting her second double-double of the season. Sophomore Imani Lacy added 15 points with seven rebounds, Booker chipped in 14 points and a career-high eight rebounds and Hamilton tied her career high of 12 points and seven rebounds and dished out a career-best six assists.
Nevada will travel to face the Mountain West regular season champs in Fresno State this Saturday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.