New Mexico Lobos Women’s Basketball – In The Pit
Saturday: 3 p.m., Saturday (Nov. 9) vs. Loyola Marymount
On The Air: Mountain West Network (video stream); 610-AM KNML
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Live Stats, Quotes, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It’s for real. It’s also for revenge. That’s part of the Lobos call to arms for Saturday’s visit by the Lions of Loyola Marymount, who will come into The Pit hoping to roar and run – and win like they did two years ago.
The Lobos need to play at a higher level because this is the season opener and it counts. The Lobos also have some bad memories of the Lions’ last visit to The Pit – a 57-54 LMU win on a buzzer-beater.
“When I first came in, we lost to them by one (basket), so I’m still a little bit salty over the issue,” said Lobo senior Deeva Vaughn. “I’m fired up. I’m ready to play.”
Said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez: “We are playing a team that beat us on a last second shot two years ago and there are a few of us who still remember that.”
The Lobos don’t like to lose anywhere, but the sting always hurts more in The Pit. UNM’s season opener looks to be a run-and-gun affair because both teams are loaded with athletes who like to get down the floor.
The mission for both teams is similar: We run. You don’t.
“It’s important that we set the pace and they play to our strengths,” said Lobo Antiesha Brown, a 5-10 wing. “We want to be the one to control the tempo and maybe slow them down a little bit. It’s our house, so they are going to play our game.”
Of course, the team picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the West Coast Conference behind senior guard Hazel Ramirez has other plans. The Lions ran to an 82-51 exhibition win over Cal State San Bernardino and one of the keys was the Lions ran. That’s what they like to do.
“They are going to take that ball out quickly and go,” said Sanchez. “We have to be prepared for that and get back.
“Our transition defense is one of the keys and one of the more focal things that we have to concentrate on to slow them down. They have a very quick team and we have to make sure we get up and down with them.”
Teams like transition for obvious reasons. A running game often produces easy baskets and open shots because you get down there before the defense is set. UNM’s goal will be to get in front of the ball and slow it down or turn it out. Then the Lions have to run a half-court offense against a structured UNM defense.
The Lions will try to do the same thing to the Lobos.
“If we don’t have our break, then we set up our offense,” said Sanchez. “ We have to be prepared to execute whether it's in transition or in the half-court set.”
The Lobos have a host of capable scorers both inside and out. Brown will get some attention after scoring 23 in UNM’s exhibition win over New Mexico Highlands and backing that with a 10-point performance against Western New Mexico. She was the Mountain West’s Sixth Player of the Year in 2012-13.
“We have some people we can go to instead of focusing on one,” said Sanchez. “People are going to watch film and try to take her away. If they take her away, then we have to have the others step up.”
The Lobos have others scorers on the edge. Sara Halasz and Bryce Owens return as 2012-13 starters. UNM’s inside is strong behind Ebony Walker, Khadijah Shumpert and Deeva Vaughn. Walker had 16 points vs. Western and Shumpert had 14 points and 10 boards. The Lobos are not weakened by a half-court set.
The Lions probably prefer a broken court. Second-year Coach Charity Elliott wants her Lions to run and will pressure the ball trying to create turnovers – and running opportunities. “They are a very good team,” said Sanchez. “She (Elliott) has really gotten some energy into that program.”
Ramirez, a high-energy guard, stirs the Lions’ offense. She had 11 points, five assists and three steals in 26 minutes of work in Loyola’s exhibition win. Melinda Gomez had 12 points off the bench. The Lobos are not a tall team, but neither is Loyola. They have 6-foot-1 Mackenzie Kerins inside along with 6-1 Emily Ben-Jumbo. The Lions can bring 6-2 Alexis Love and 6-3 Brianna Kennedy off the bench. They combined for 23 minutes, nine boards and two points in the exhibition win.
The Lions hope to wear teams down with pressure, running and numbers. They had 10 players in double-figure minutes vs. CS San Bernardino. The Lions had 29 points off turnovers in that game, 18 fast-break points, and 42 points off the bench. Elliott played 15 Lions – all of them. The Lions return 10 players from last year’s 13-18 squad, losing Alex Cowling, the program’s all-time leading scorer.
“Loyola Marymount is no easy task,” said Sanchez. “There are always nerves and jitters playing the first game for real.”
Those jitters should dissolve quickly thanks to the anticipated pace of this game. In a run-and-gun affair, you usually don’t have time to get nervous and despite the Lobos' plans for Loyola – there will be running.