Feb. 10, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road
Saturday: 2 p.m., New Mexico Lobos (7-15, 1-7 MW) at Wyoming Cowgirls (9-12, 5-3)
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend and Nikki Heckroth
GoLobos.com: Game Recap, Final Stats, GameTracker
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
As she steps off the bus in Laramie, you have to wonder if the Wyoming Cowgirl assigned to Lobo Caroline Durbin will start the defensive pressure early and be there to greet New Mexico's top gun.
Which might be a good idea.
From the bus stop, Durbin might be worth only 12 or so points. From outside Wyoming's Arena-Auditorium, Durbin's 3-point percentage might drop.
For sure, New Mexico's leading scorer has a target on her back. You can bet that Wyoming Cowgirls' coach Joe Legerski will be shouting out what most opposing coaches shout out when Durbin rolls off a screen to find an open look at the basket.
"Get her!" "Shooter!" Or something like that.
"You can hear the other coaches screaming, `Don't let her get the ball,'" said Durbin, who threw up 29 on Wyoming in UNM's two-point loss in The Pit. "The player guarding me is usually assigned to me, you know: `Don't let her do anything.' That's their job."
Durbin, a 6-foot junior from Austin, Texas, says she feels the defensive pressure "a lot." "I hear, `Shooter, shooter.' Things like that. I try not to listen too much."
The thing opposing defenders are starting to find out about Durbin is that there isn't much you can do to stop her. Her Lobo teammates get her open. Then she is usually on or not on. But rarely is she off by much. Durbin is a pure and complete scorer.
"I'm getting open looks because of great screens," said Durbin. "There are people on the team who really don't care about the points they score."
The Boise State Broncos came into The Pit on Saturday knowing they had to stop Durbin and senior Porche Torrance. Durbin threw up 27 points. Torrance had a mammoth game, too, with 17 points, 15 boards and five blocked shots. Torrance only scored six vs. Wyoming in Game One, but had 10 boards and seven blocks.
"We have to be more aggressive. We can't back down. We can't allow them to push us off screens or set harder screens than we set on them. I think we have it in us. We just have to bring it out. We can't hold it back."
Lobo Porche Torrance
Durbin is a tough gun to stop. She can hit the three, topping the Mountain with her .529 long-range percentage. She can hit the pull-up jumper. She guns at a .480 percent overall. She also can take the ball to the glass on the drive. She is No. 2 in the MW in scoring with a 15.5 average.
The Cowgirls counter with a pretty good gun of their own in 6-foot-1 Chaundra Sewell, who does most of her damage inside. Sewell scored 26 in The Pit with 13 boards. She went 8-of-10 from the line as UNM hammered her inside trying to stop the short stuff.
Wyoming also gets 12 points a game from 5-11 Kayla Woodward, 11.4 from Ashley Sickles and 9.1 from Kaitlyn Mileto. Wyoming has balance. The Lobos need to get similar help for Durbin and Torrance, if they expect to pull the upset in Laramie.
"Caroline, as good as she's doing, she's going to get help," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. "It's not going to be Caroline vs. Chaundra. Joe (Legerski) is smart enough to run their offense through their team and we're going to do the same thing."
There aren't too many secrets in what a team wants to do at this point in the MW race. What the Lobos really want to do is beat somebody besides Air Force. UNM has lost seven of eight. The Lobos only hope for postseason hinges on finding momentum and confidence to take into the MW Tournament in Vegas and hope for a miracle run.
A win in Laramie would be huge. The Cowgirls are riding a three-game win streak, including that 51-47 stunner in overtime at Vegas. The other two wins were in Laramie by 20 over Boise State and by 10 over TCU. The Cowgirls are ornery at home.
"The biggest thing with them is that they always get better," said Sanchez. "They're a system team.
"The things they run early might not be fine-tuned, but by the time you get to this time of the year, the screens are starting to get better, the reads are starting to get better, the curls, the flares - everything they run is fine- tuned.
"They are very patient and they take care of the ball."
Said Durbin: "We've been focusing on our help defense and rotations.
Wyoming has improved as a team because the Cowgirls have improved as individuals. Woodward, a freshman, was the MW Player of The Week last week averaging 18.5 points and 7.0 boards in two wins. She scored 16 in Wyoming's road upset at UNLV.
After Durbin, UNM gets 10.8 points from Torrance off her 45 percent touch. After Torrance, UNM has no player averaging more than seven points a game and no other Lobo averaging double figures in minutes is shooting better than 40 percent. Lauren Taylor, Nikki Nelson and Chinyere Nnaji shoot .320 or lower.
The Lobos' two-person scoring punch hurts them, but Sanchez also says UNM needs to do better on rebounding and turnovers. "Those two stats will lose you basketball games," said Sanchez, referring to the "extra possessions" created from both statistical categories.
The Lobos average 17.2 turnovers a game, but that's averaging 55.0 points a game and playing at a slower tempo. Only one team in the Mountain has taken fewer shots that UNM's 1,155 -Wyoming with 1,124 attempts.
"We like lower-scoring games," said Durbin. UNM and Wyoming are the only two MW teams that allow or score fewer than 60 points. Wyoming won 52-50 in The Pit.
"We were right there," Sanchez said of that loss to Wyoming. "We gave up 20 offensive rebounds and we lost by two. But I like our team. I think we have a great chance of getting a road win. We're as positive as ever. I know it's tough to hear that and say that, but we're right there.
"I don't think there is a team on our schedule that we can't beat. We want to go win them all and that's what we are preparing to do."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.