Stevens: Lobos Hope Not To Get Burned by UNLV Rebs
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/20/2012
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 20, 2012

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New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit

Saturday: 2 p.m. (MT), UNLV Rebels (14-5, 2-1) at New Mexico Lobos (6-11, 0-3)

On The Air: 610-AM KNML
GoLobos.com: Game Recap, Final Stats, GameTracker

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It's not exactly accurate to say the Lobos are jumping from the frying pan into the fire in jumping from San Diego State to UNLV.

This is more like jumping from the flames into a searing pan.

The Rebels might not be quite as hot a team as SDSU, but there isn't much difference in the temperature. The Rebels can still burn you. UNLV is very good.

"They are playing very well right now," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. "We obviously have to play better than we did at San Diego State and it will help us to be back in The Pit. Our fans are amazing."

The Lobos could use some sixth-man energy pouring out of the stands, but the Lobos also have to do things better on the court. Like the Aztecs, the Rebs like to swarm with pressure and quick athletes. They have size inside, too.

The Rebs already have a couple of nice Mountain West wins on the road - 54-51 at Wyoming and 72-57 at TCU. Vegas fell at home in overtime 66-62 to SDSU, an Aztecs team that spanked the Lobos by 30 in San Diego. UNM also lost in The Pit to Wyoming.

If you are into comparative scores, it's obvious the Lobos have to up their efforts in order to play with the Rebs. That's where The Pit could be a factor. The Lobos had 7,454 fans for Wyoming's visit and 6,447 the game before. In the latest NCAA rankings, UNM was No. 10 in the nation in attendance.

Furthermore, Saturday's game is a big one for the venue -- it marks the 500th game being played by the women's basketball program in The Pit, with the lifetime record sitting at 337-162.

Obviously, the Lobos, 0-3 in league play, need a win and even though the Mountain West race is in the early stages, the Lobos can't afford another loss at home - especially to a front runner like UNLV.

Again, it's early, but the MW race appears to be a two-team race between San Diego State and UNLV. It's difficult to pin the dark horse label on any other MW team simply because the Aztecs and the Rebs look so good. Of course, the Lobos could change that perception on Saturday. Or not.

Boise State started off the MW race at 2-0, but the Broncos were slapped down at home 60-52 by Colorado State. CSU hasn't lost at home with the stain on its 2-1 record coming 79-71 at TCU. Right now, the race appears to have several tiers:

1. SDSU and UNLV at the top.
2. Boise State, Wyoming, Colorado State and TCU forming a pack in the middle.
3. New Mexico and Air Force, both 0-3, needing to get on the board and move into that thick second tier. The Lobos and Air Force are at the bottom of MW stats (conference games) in scoring margin at minus 17 and minus 34, respectively.

Simply put, the Lobos have some improving to do and that might be difficult until the Lobos become healthy. Forwards Jourdan Erskine (knee) and Deeva Vaughn (concussion) are still on the injured list. UNM is without Ashley Rhoades, who has volleyball commitments this weekend.

Coach Sanchez said one emphasis for her Lobos is to simply put more points on the board. The Lobos have the lowest scoring offense (league games) at 47.7. The tempo that UNLV will try to set in The Pit on Saturday is conducive to a high-scoring game. But the Rebs also can be a nasty team on defense.

UNLV does a lot of things well, but it does at least two things exceptionally well. The Rebs like to use their quickness to pressure the edge and take away the 3-point shot. In their three MW games, they are holding teams to a .246 percent from behind the line. The Rebs also like to pound the offensive glass.

"We have to keep them off the boards," said Sanchez.

If the Rebs have a small weakness, it's in depth. They play six players 20 minutes or more and the other five subs all play 10 minutes or less. But the front-line Rebs are good and usually stay on the court.

Kelli Thompson averages 12.5 points followed by Lenita Sanford at 11.6. There is good scoring support from Jamie Smith (9.1), Sandrine Nzeukou (8.4) and and Mia Bell (8.3). Markiell Styles comes off the bench to add 6.3 points and 5.7 boards. This is a solid six.

The Lobos will run into another quick guard in Thompson, who averages 5.0 assists in her three MW games. She also has size at 6-foot. The Rebs also have height and muscle inside in the 6-3 Sanford (51 blocks) and the 6-3 Styles. These are not skinny Rebels. Nzeukou gives UNLV a 6-2 frame at the forward spot. Bell is only 5-6, but she is quick and Smith is a 6-foot wing with a nice touch from 3-point range.

The Rebs' quickness and pressure can change a game. UNLV has 163 steals. UNM has 109.

The Lobos are led in scoring by Caroline Durbin with a 15.2 average followed by Porche Torrance with a 10.5 average. Torrance hauls down an average of 8.8 boards and has 45 blocks on the season. An interesting side note Saturday will be seeing which player registers the most swats - Torrance or Sanford.

Jourdan Erskine -- still out


Probable StartersHTPositionSeason Statistics
12 - Nikki Nelson5-5Guard5.2 Pts. - 2.9 Rebs.
35 - Chinyere Nnaji6-0Post2.0 Pts. - 3.4 Rebs.
24 - Caroline Durbin6-0Guard15.2 Pts. - 4.2 Rebs.
23 - Porche Torrance6-1Wing10.5 Pts. - 8.8 Rebs.
21 - Jayme Jackson5-7Guard5.5 Pts. - 2.4 Rebs.

The NM BenchHTPositionSeason Statistics
11 - Lauren Taylor6-0Guard6.5 Pts. - 1.4 Rebs.
45 - Jourdan Erskine6-2Wing5.8 Pts. - 7.1 Rebs.
43 - Emily Stark6-5Post1.3 Pts. - 1.3 Rebs.
44 - Deeva Vaughn6-0Wing6.2 Pts. - 4.3 Rebs.
41 - Jaime Parker5-9Wing1.0 Pts. -- 0.5 Rebs.
33 - Maddie Muraida6-2Post0.4 Pts. - 1.2 Rebs.
25 - Ashley Rhoades6-2Post0.7 Pts. - 1.4 Rebs.