AUSTIN, Texas -- Unranked New Mexico connected on 33 of 41 free throws, including a clutch 12-for-13 in the final 7:58, to post a 76-68 victory over No. 12 Texas Friday night in women's basketball action in front of 5,729 at the Frank Erwin Center.
It was the season opener for the Longhorns, who sport a 15-player roster with seven freshmen. New Mexico, now 3-1, was playing its fourth game in eight days. The Lobos were in the Preseason WNIT, advancing to the semifinals where they lost to No. 22 Oklahoma (74-63) on Nov. 16.
Despite only turning the ball over nine times, Texas was hindered by poor free throw shooting, as the Longhorns sank only 23 of 35 free throws attempted. This included an eight-for-13 performance from the foul line in the second half. UT also hit just 35 percent of its field goals (21-of-60), while UNM made 44 percent of its shots (18-for-41).
New Mexico was led by sophomore forward Dionne Marsh, who poured in a game-high 24 points which included a 13-for-17 free throw performance. Marsh netted 20 of those points in the second half. She was one of four players in double figure scoring for the Lobos, as forward Brandi Kimble (19 points) and guards Abbie Letz (13) and Katie Montgomery (13) rounded out the double-digit scorers. Kimble pulled down a game-best eight rebounds.
Junior forward Tiffany Jackson (Dallas, Texas) and freshman guard Erika Arriaran (Norco, Calif.) each had 17 points, while freshman point guard Carla Cortijo came off the bench to add 15. The Longhorns also were without starting senior point guard Nina Norman (aggravated a knee injury) for the entire second half. Norman (two points, one assists) played only 15 first-half minutes.
Texas held an 11-point lead, 48-37, with 15:23 to play before the Lobos chipped away and tied the game at 54-all (9:14 to go) with a 17-6 run in a six-minute span. Marsh had eight points in the run. Texas hit three of seven field goals and made three of its nine turnovers during that UNM run.
Texas broke the tie on a Jackson jumper to make it 56-54, but the Lobos answered with a 10-2 run, going up by six (64-58) on a Brandi Kimble jumper with 5:12 to go.
The Longhorns cut the lead to three, 64-61, on a free throw by Katrina Robinson with 3:41 left, but New Mexico kept Texas at a distance with its free throw shooting down the stretch, sinking 10 of 11 free throws and a jumper. By contrast, the Longhorns were five for seven from the line in the last 3:41, but also missed all five field goals they attempted.
Texas lost at home for only the second time in 46 games since the start of the 2002-03 season. Last year, UT was 13-1 at the Erwin Center after going 16-0 and 15-0 at home, respectively, the two previous years.
In the first half, Texas trailed by 10 (18-8) with 13:52 to go in the half before mounting an 12-0 run to take the lead, 20-18, with 8:05 to go on two Erneisha Bailey free throws. In the 12-0 run, the Horns were paced by four points apiece from Jackson (four free throws) and freshman post Ashley Lindsey (two jumpers). The two teams then traded baskets and with UT up by one (33-32) with 2:14 to go, the Horns made two free throws to extend the halftime lead to three (35-32).
Texas led at the break on the strength of nine points and three steals from Jackson and eight points from Arriaran. Both teams were cold from the floor, with UT shooting 31 percent (9-for-29) and New Mexico hitting just 30.4 percent of its shots (7-for-23).
Texas helped itself by committing just three turnovers in the first 20 minutes and out-rebounding the Lobos by a 22-15 margin. UNM made seven first-half turnovers, and stayed close by draining 13 of its 16 free throws attempted.
New Mexico held the advantage on the boards, 35-33. Texas had eight steals to the Lobos' three. UT's bench out-scored the Lobos bench by a 26-5 margin.
The Longhorns will next face Sam Houston State on Monday (Nov. 21) in a 7 p.m. game from Austin (televised on FOX Sports Net Southwest).
Then, Texas will begin a three-game road trip, beginning with two contests at the Junkanoo Jam Classic in Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island. Texas squares off against South Carolina on Friday, Nov. 23 in a first-round game (2:30 p.m. Central), and then faces either No. 19 Purdue or Washington the next day in either the third-place or championship game.
TEXAS HEAD COACH JODY CONRADT
Her general assessment of the game: You always have to play to win, and I know we did that tonight, but the results were not there. At the end, we had three or four freshmen in there, and people tried to do things they did in high school which probably worked for them then - but not here. We took some ill-advised shots and made some bad passes. We need to trust each other more, and that will come.
We got into a free throw shooting contest and came in second. New Mexico is known as a team which shoots free throws about as good as any in the country. Our free throw effort was disappointing. The good thing is, while we were playing with four, and one time, with five freshmen out there tonight, I was able to see a lot of improvement from our exhibition games. The good thing is that we have a lot of talented, motivated and eager players with lots of potential. I think you saw the potential in some of our younger players. They took the loss hard and they are ready to get back on floor and improve tomorrow.
A lot of our issues right now are about chemistry. People are in and out of practice and have limited minutes on the court, and that makes it hard to build chemistry. I know these players really like each other off the court, but now, we need to work on carrying that good chemistry over onto the court.
The general issues that Texas had in the game: We had hesitancy to get out and put pressure on the ball. They passed the ball too easily - I think we were afraid to get beat off the dribble. We are still learning to trust each other and make rotations on defense. You cannot beat anyone giving up 76 points, but I think we are beginning to understand defensive connection.
We've got to adjust to some of the officiating changes - with this young team, especially young in the post, we are just now getting aggressive on defense, but with the new rule changes, we have to play smart. Yet, I can't feel anything but positive about tonight after looking back at our first two exhibitions. We were way better defensively tonight. We only ran around in the two exhibitions, chasing people. Tonight, we didn't get beat a lot in transition. The next step is to get more active with our hands on the ball and to adjust to how the game is being called.
On the injury situations: Nina (Norman) was having discomfort with her left knee at halftime, and we didn't think we could take a chance by putting her back in the game. She has been in and out of practice this past week. We have to manage these issues. Two days ago, I wasn't thinking Tiffany (Jackson) or Nina would play, and I appreciate their effort tonight. We really really missed Nina in the second half.
Remember, everything is new for half of our team. And, when we play most of our upperclassmen, there's not much experience there, either. Katrina Robinson and Erneisha Bailey are working hard to make contributions and we will see them improve as well. Realistically, we are not gaining experience when put in these upperclassmen - we are just changing numbers.
TEXAS FRESHMAN GUARD Erika Arriaran
Her general thoughts on playing her first regular season college game and what the Longhorns needed to do to hold onto the second-half lead: For me tonight, I was not overwhelmed. The two exhibitions helped get the kinks out. Actually, I think all the freshmen were really excited and that benefited us. We all came out with good energy and defensively, we did a lot better than we did in the exhibitions. I think we were more excited than we were nervous.
When we lost the lead, we needed to take better care of the ball. We got too ahead of ourselves and tried to thread the needle too much or, we'd try to make a pretty play instead of a smart play. I know I am guilty of that - trying to make a fancy passes or take a quick shot instead of setting the offense up and reversing the ball. We also did not set up the posts.
NEW MEXICO HEAD COACH DON FLANAGAN
His general statement: This is a real tough stretch for us, having four games in a week's time. I was certainly pleased with our effort and the comeback. When we battled back in the second half, our goal was to put a lot of pressure on the ball, pressure the passing lanes and make them work 25 seconds to get the shot. Texas is going to be a very good team. The advantage we had tonight was that we had a three-game advantage over Texas, who was in its opener.