Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos Nipped 58-56 By No. 13 Oklahoma
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/19/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 19, 2011

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New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit

Saturday: Oklahoma 58, Lobos 56

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Maybe Yvonne Sanchez's Lobos made a mistake Saturday afternoon in The Pit. They played at a level they haven't played at before and now Sanchez won't settle for anything less.

After UNM's heartbreaking 58-56 loss to Oklahoma, Sanchez said she told her Lobos: "For good or bad, now I know what you guys can do and I expect this team every single game."

The Lobos had a storybook win in their hands for most of the non-conference game played Saturday in The Pit, but the No. 13 Sooners refused to roll over to the timely shooting of the Lobos or the passion of The Pit.

"What a great crowd," said Sanchez. "We have the best fans in the country. What a treat to play for them. I promise our fans we are going to continue to play hard and we're going to play smarter and we'll give them some wins.

"This team believes in themselves and I believe in them. There are going to be some really good things that happen this year."

The Lobos did a few things necessary to produce wins in 2011-12. First, the Lobos battled. Second, they hit some shots. UNM shot 41.5 percent for the game against an outstanding Oklahoma defensive team.

Caroline Durbin led all scorers with 16 points and point guard Jayme Jackson added 12 points. Jourdan Erskine battled the Oklahoma trees to pull down 13 boards to go along with her eight points. Nikki Nelson had six assists and Porche Torrance had eight points and 12 boards.

"Jourdan was incredible inside," said Sanchez. "These kids care a ton and work hard and you saw that work (by Erskine) carry onto the court tonight. I was so proud of her.

"It's not easy to box out that team, but when you get offensive rebounds, that's heart and soul."

Said Erskine: "I just really wanted to get this win. I wasn't really performing like I should have in the past couple of games so I wanted to step up my game and play that big five role.

"This is definitely a stepping stone," Erskine added. "We know what we can do and what we can play like. Everyone played as a team and we collaborated so I think if we use this game and keep moving forward, we're going to be fine."

UNM out-rebounded Oklahoma 45-39 with Erskine hauling in six offensive boards. The Lobos' downfall came from 14 Oklahoma steals that helped create 23 UNM turnovers. UNM shot 60 percent from the free-throw line, 6 of 10.

The Lobos' effort Saturday was outstanding and UNM was really just a few clutch free throws away from the win. "We have to hit those free throws," said Sanchez. "We want 75 percent or better. We have to step up to the line and get that done.

"But I'm extremely encouraged by what these girls do. "

The Lobos held a 47-39 lead with 13:27 to play in the second half before the Sooners began to chip away. At the 11:01 mark, UNM was up 47-46 as the result of a 7-0 Oklahoma run. At the 8:51 mark, the Lobos were up 51-46 following two free throws by Nikki Nelson.

Oklahoma came back again and went up 52-51 with 4:31 to go. At 3:42, the No. 13 team in the nation was up 55-51 and it looked like the Lobos might roll over to the tall and quick Sooners. But the Lobos didn't.

Lobo Porche Torrance tossed in a jumper to make it 55-53 and a free throw by Durbin made it 55-54 and Durbin hit a jumper at 1:43 to hand the Lobos a 56-55 lead.

Oklahoma tied the game 56-all on a free throw at 1:01 and a miss inside by UNM's Jayme Jackson with 41 ticks to play gave Oklahoma a chance to grab the lead. Sooner Whitney Hand scored with 18 seconds to go and Oklahoma was up 58-56.

UNM's Durbin got off a 3-pointer that missed, but Erskine got the offensive board and missed inside with about two ticks to go. Oklahoma got the rebound and the win.

"We don't believe in morale victories, so we're not satisfied and it's back to work," said Sanchez. "But I'm extremely encouraged."

Said UNM's Torrance: "It was a tough loss, like last year we lost by two points again and it was a last minute shot. We have to keep our heads high. We fought and in each play we were aggressive more than the last two games we've played."

First Half - Lobos 38, Oklahoma 30

If Coach Sanchez had mapped the first half out on paper, it probably would have looked no better than what her young and limping Lobos threw out in the first half in The Pit.

UNM shot 53.6 percent from the field against an aggressive Oklahoma defense using a combination of solid picks, solid passing and solid shooting. UNM went 15-of-28 from the floor and 6-of-10 from long range to post the surprising 38-30 lead.

The Lobos had 13 assists to only five for Oklahoma, which shot 34.3 percent from the field and 25 percent (3-of-12) from behind the line. About the only weapon working for Oklahoma in the first half was its press and pressure which created 12 points off turnovers.

The Lobos even ruled the boards against the No. 13 ranked Sooners, 22-15. It was a gutsy opening in front of the UNM home crowd as the Lobos had lost their preseason star, Sara Halasz, to ACL surgery and then lost freshman Whitney Johnsonto the same injury last week.

Junior Caroline Durbin continued to step up big for the Lobos as UNM's leading scorer hit 11 points in the first 20 minutes. Jayme Jackson added eight on 4-of-8 shooting. Jourdan Erskine was a power inside with seven boards and six points. Oklahoma was paced in the first half by Joanna McFarland with eight points.