LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) -- Wyoming head coach Joe Legerski knew that starting off play in the Mountain West Conference against the defending champions wouldn't be easy and that his young team might have some mental lapses.
Turns out the Cowgirls didn't pretty well Thursday night, as they took advantage of New Mexico's poor shooting to hang on for a 54-51 win over the Lobos (unranked ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP).
"We knew there would be runs made by New Mexico. We just had to make adjustments to those runs," Legerski said. "I thought it was a great game."
Justyna Podziemska had 22 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Aubrey Vandiver drove the baseline for a layup with 12 seconds left to help Wyoming to the win.
The loss marked the first time in five years that the Lobos (10-4, 0-1) did not win their conference opener.
Vandiver's layup gave Wyoming (10-3, 1-0) a 52-51 lead. New Mexico's Katie Montgomery then traveled, turning the ball over with about 5 seconds to go. She fouled Wyoming's Amy Sisk on the inbounds play and Sisk made two free throws to seal the win.
Montgomery had a steal and a layup earlier to give New Mexico a 51-50 lead. Wyoming turned the ball over, but New Mexico's Amy Beggin missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win it, and we didn't respond quite as well as we're capable of," New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said. "We should have converted some things. We allowed a drive late that hurt us."
"You're up one late in the game, you can't allow a drive," he added.
Hanna Zavecz finished with 17 points and four steals for the Cowgirls.
Dionne Marsh led the Lobos with 11 points, and Montgomery added 10. Both had nine rebounds as New Mexico outrebounded Wyoming 40-28.
Wyoming led 29-21 at halftime. The teams traded runs early in the second half, and the score was tied at 44 with 6:56 remaining.
New Mexico struggled to keep up in the first half after shooting just 26.7 percent from the field and hitting only 1 of 5 attempts from the free throw line. The Lobos improved in the second half, hitting nearly half of their 23 attempts from the field, but Flanagan acknowledged it wasn't enough.
"We've got to learn that if you shoot 24, 25 percent in a half, there's not many teams in this league you can beat," he said.