By Matthew Lofton
NMHU Sports Information
GOLDEN, Colo. — For the second-straight contest, the New Mexico Highlands women’s basketball team fell behind by a pair at halftime. Unlike Friday night, the Cowgirls defense took over for the victory.
NMHU (4-1, 1-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) held Colorado School of Mines (2-4, 1-1 RMAC) to only 26 points in the second half, outscoring the Orediggers by eight en route to a 65-59 win Saturday night.
“I’m happy with the way we responded after last night’s loss,” head coach Tiffany Darling said. “We still have a lot of work to do on the defensive end of the floor and on the boards. Anytime you can get a split on the road, that’s a good weekend.”
With the score knotted at 54 with 4:04 left, the Cowgirls scored five unanswered to take momentum in the contest.
Senior China Smith broke the deadlock with a layup. After a defensive stop, Highlands grabbed two offensive boards to keep possession and bleed more time off the clock. Junior Trish Simpson grabbed the second offensive board and found senior Alyssa Lopez behind the arc to drain the triple. The Cowgirls had the 59-54 advantage, never leading by three the rest of the way. The visitors hit 6 of 8 from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the win.
Simpson, who grabbed the big offensive rebound that led to Highlands going up by five, recorded a game-best 12 boards. Lopez, senior Patrina Goree and junior Jenny Johnson all tallied a game-high 12 points.
The Orediggers did manage to outshoot the Cowgirls (41.7-40.7 percent), but Highlands countered with its ability to get to the free-throw line. Highlands made 13 of 25 (52 percent) from the line, compared to 6 of 14 (42.9 percent) for Mines.
Lopez, who only hit a pair of 3-pointers, made the most of both her shots. Colorado School of the Mines pushed out to a 30-23 edge in the first half before Goree grabbed a defensive board and found Lopez for the triple.
“It was great to see Alyssa back to her old self tonight. We’ve been easing her way back into game action. Well, she showed she was back tonight,” Darling said.
Goree went 3-4 from the charity line down the stretch in the first half, while Johnson grabbed a steal and went straight to the hoop, to pull Highlands within 33-31 at intermission.
With the score tied at 37, Courtney Martin recorded a pair of lay-ups to give the Orediggers its biggest lead of the second half. Goree and Simpson quickly tied the game with a pair of lay-ups of their own. Allie Grazulis gave the home team its final lead with 12:09 left, but Lopez found junior Katie Gannon behind the arc on the ensuing possession to put Highlands up 44-43.
“Besides Lopez, Kate Cryderman took two huge charges in the second half that changed momentum in the game,” Darling said.
Sam Rusk led Colorado Mines with 12 points while Martin contributed 11. Courtney Gallo chipped in 10 points while Grazulis added 11 boards.
The Cowgirls close out home play in 2013 this coming weekend when they host Western State Colorado and No. 5 nationall ranked Colorado Mesa. Both games are scheduled to tip at 6 p.m.
Orediggers 111, Cowboys 63
Later on Saturday night, the Cowboys fell behind 15-1 and could never catch up as Highlands (4-2, 1-1 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) split its first conference weekend of the season with a 111-63 loss at No. 19 nationally ranked Colorado School of Mines.
Both teams tried to get out and run in the game as both teams scored 14 fast break points. However, the Orediggers used a 59.4 percent (39-71) to 31.3 percent (21-67) shooting edge and a 32-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
Individually, junior Luis Rodriguez Quintana led the Cowboys with 13 points with classmate Augustus French adding six rebounds. Five players scored in double digits for the Orediggers, led by Trevor Wages’ 19 points. Wages and Luke Meisch both recorded double-doubles with 10 boards. Meisch added 13 points.