**Note** The Dec. 15 University of New Mexico women’s basketball game against Northern Colorado has been changed to a tip-off time of 6 p.m. mountain time.
The Thursday night game will be played in The Pit and is the last scheduled home event for the Lobo women’s squad in 2011. New Mexico will close out the 2011 calendar year with road trips to Houston Baptist, Arizona and Rio Grande rival New Mexico State.
Nov. 30, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit
7 p.m., Loyola Marymount (1-5) at Lobos (2-4)
On The Air: 610-AM KNML
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Stats, GameTracker, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It's time to dispel a few rumors about Yvonne Sanchez'sNew Mexico Lobos. First, it's not true that the team bus is an emergency rescue vehicle purchased from the city's fire department. It's not an ambulance either.
Second, it's not true that the first three speed dials on Sanchez's cell phone are two orthopedic surgeons and a neurologist. However, there might be a psychologist in there somewhere because Sanchez's rookie year promises to be challenge after challenge after challenge.
And so far, injury after injury after injury.
Third, it's not true that senior Nikki Nelsonis out for the season with a third knee injury -- and this rumor really has been circulating. The good news for Lobo fans and the classy Nelson is that the limp she left the floor with against Pepperdine was simply a bone bruise.
Nelson may or may not limp onto the Bob King Floor at 7 p.m., Thursday when Loyola Marymount comes to visit. Her injury is day-to-day status, but she will return. Deeva Vaughn, out with a concussion, has the same status.
"I'm taking it day by day. My knee is pretty sore," said Nelson. "I'm seeing improvement each day and I'm hopeful that it will be better soon."
The Lobos have enough healthy bodies to start five Lobos against Loyola and, depending on the latest injury update, Sanchez should have at least three Lobos on the bench. The UNM roster already has lost Sara Halasz and Whitney Johnson for the season. The day-to-day list includes Nelson, Vaughn and even Lauren Taylor, who is coming off knee surgery.
You have to give Sanchez credit. The rookie head coach shoulders the "it-is-what-it-is" attitude and marches on trying to get her Lobos better and to win some games.
"We're just going to roll with it," she said of the challenges in front of her team. Her Lobos feel the same way - no time for the woe-is-me slump.
"It's kind of tough. I'm not going to lie," said senior captain Porche Torranceof UNM's depleted roster. "You just have to play with what you have and that's what coach Sanchez is doing and that's what everybody is doing."
Said Nelson: "I'm seeing everyone pull through and pull together. It shows a lot about our team in general; how we're able to fight adversity."
The Lobos take to the court with a 2-4 mark that easily could be 4-2. They dropped last-second games to Oklahoma and to Pepperdine, 59-56 in overtime. The worn down Lobos had six turnovers and six points in the extra period.
The Lobos appear to have a winnable game on hand Thursday vs. Loyola Marymount. The Lions are 1-5 with their single win coming 57-54 over Wyoming. Loyola has a scorer to watch in 5-11 Alex Cowling, who averages 18.8 points and 10 boards per game.
Cowling had 18 points and 17 boards in Loyola's 60-54 loss to Youngstown State. She has led the Lions in scoring in every game and has reached double figures in every game: 23, 22, 22, 11, 18, and 17.
The Lobos might be thinking about putting the 6-foot-1 Torrance on Cowling. Torrance was on the Mountain West's All-Defensive Team last season and the talented senior is six blocks away from cracking UNM's Top Five list in blocked shots.
You take Cowling out of the game and Loyola's next leading scorer, 6-1 Emily Ben-Jumbo, averages 7.2 points. The Lions get a lot of 3-point shots out of Hazel Ramirez (4-18) and Monica DeAngelis (6-24), but Loyola shoots only .197 percent from behind the line.
Cowling is 0-3 from long range. She prefers to score from shorter range and on drives. She is 42-of-96 overall for a healthy 44 percent. When Ben-Jumbo can get the ball from the Lions' long-range gunners, she converts at a 76 percent rate.
The Lions might have to adjust to playing in front of The Pit crowd. They drew 507 for Wyoming. There will be thousands in The Pit on Thursday. "I'm excited for that," said Ramirez.
The Lions have been hanging with opponents on the boards (36.5 to 39.8) thanks to Cowling, but the Lions' defense has been suspect. They shoot 34 percent as a team and yield a 43 percent mark to the enemy.
The Lobos have been shooting well as a team. They average 40 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the line. The 3-point shooting needs some improvement at 32 percent, but that should improve as Lobos return to the lineup.
Caroline Durbin tops the Lobos with a 15.7 average followed by Torrance at 11.0 and Jayme Jackson at 9.0. Durbin likely will be the shooter Loyola targets. The scoring takes a dip after that with Jourdan Erskinecoming in with a 4.8 average. Torrance paces the rebounding charge with an 8.8 average followed by Erskine at 7.3 and Durbin at 5.0.
The Lions have an edge in roster depth and might be thinking about pressuring a UNM team that has 127 turnovers in six games. Loyola has 84 in six games. But do you want to press the Lobos at altitude in The Pit?
Sanchez says depth and injury will force her to be creative in games. She will try to massage her substitution patterns with media timeouts in order to give her players some rest. "Everybody wants to get a rest and get back into the game with more energy and spark," said Torrance.
Sanchez also has to be creative in practices. She has to limit the running to help the healing of Nelson and Taylor's knees. Sanchez also doesn't have any subs to use in practice. Her team can't go five-on-five in Lobos vs. Lobos situations. Sanchez brings in UNM male students to help with practice sessions.
"We are in a preservation mode right now," said Sanchez. "We can't go two and a half hours hard. But it doesn't have to be a grinding, pounding practice.
"These players are warriors. We are going to lace it up and expect to win every game. I think their passion for the game has far exceeded any pressure they put on themselves."
NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2011-12 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL ROSTER
|Probable Starters||HT||Position||Season Statistics|
|12 - Nikki Nelson||5-5||Guard||3.8 Pts. - 3.8 Asts.||14 - Jourdan Erskine||6-0||Post||4.8 Pts. -- 7.3 Rebs.||24 - Caroline Durbin||6-0||Guard||15.7 Pts. - 5.0 Rebs.||23 - Porche Torrance||6-1||Wing||11.0 Pts. - 8.8 Rebs.||21 - Jayme Jackson||5-7||Guard||9.0 Pts. - 2.2 Rebs.|
|The NM Bench||HT||Position||Season Statistics|
|11 - Lauren Taylor||6-0||Guard||2.3 Pts. - 0.8 Rebs.||35 - Chinyere Nnaji||6-0||Post||1.8 Pts. - 4.2 Rebs.||43 - Emily Stark||6-5||Post||0.7 Pts. - 1.0 Rebs.||44 - Deeva Vaughn||6-0||Wing||3.8 Pts. - 3.8 Rebs.||33 - Maddie Muraida||6-2||Post||0.7 Pts. -- 0.0 Rebs.|