New Mexico Lobos Women’s Mountain West Basketball – At Utah State
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (MT); New Mexico (9-16, 4-10 MW) at Utah State (11-15, 5-10 MW)
On The Air: 610-AM KNML; Mountain West Network Live Stream
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Stats, Game Notes; (live stats at www.UtahStateAggies.com)
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The points of emphasis the Yvonne Sanchez Lobos take to Utah State aim in opposite directions – in and out.
There is an internal search, some soul searching, a gut check, to smooth out a rugged path that his seen the Lobos drop nine of 11 – and coming off a loss Sanchez calls “different than the other ones.”
“I don’t think we played as hard as we could have,” she said. “It was a different dynamic, the way we lost it, and that was the hardest part for everybody.”
There also is external point of emphasis for UNM that targets a Utah State Aggie who burned the Lobos for 30 points in The Pit: Jennifer Schlott.
Schlott, a wisp of a guard who is a case study on the benefits of keeping your dribble alive, is making a strong case for Mountain West Player of the Year honors. Her shortcoming might be playing on an Aggie team in a battle with New Mexico and San Jose State for the No. 7 seed in the upcoming MW Tournament.
Still, she might be the best player in the Mountain West.
The quick lefty – who needs to be pushed to her right (which only slows her down a bit) – is coming off a 33-point effort vs. San Diego State and a 35-point effort vs. Boise State. She is no secret, but most teams have no answer for her drives or jumpers.
The Aggies, however, have lost five of six and 10 of 13 because they are not yet fierce on the defensive side of the court.
The Aggies are playing better of late coming off two-point losses to UNLV and Fresno State and beating SDSU 79-69 in Logan. A big, pre-MW tourney addition for the Aggies is the return of Makenlee Williams, a 5-11 wing, who will help Utah State in scoring, rebounding – and defense.
Williams is averaging 16.1 points in 16 games and has been back from injury for the past five games. She had 19 points vs. SDSU and a double-double in the two-point loss at Boise. She makes Utah State a better and more complete team – and a tougher foe for the Lobos in Logan.
“You don’t see a lot of (MW) road teams winning. You don’t,” said Sanchez. “But there have been teams that have won on the road and if you just concentrate and make plays down the stretch, you can do it. That (Utah State) was a game that was very winnable here.”
The Lobos have had a lot of winnable games during their Mountain West run. Their last game at SDSU saw them down a point in the final minute despite only scoring three points in the final 11 minutes. It was a loss that hit Sanchez about as hard as any during her career as the New Mexico coach.
“That one probably sunk in the hardest,” said Sanchez. “To score three points in the last 11 minutes, that’s disheartening for everybody. We have to play smarter. We have to play better. We have to get the ball inside. We have to make better passes. We have to make open shots.
“But it’s over. It’s done with. We have four games left and we have to go and fight.”
Sanchez says she expects to see her Lobos to play better at Utah State, but she also wants to see some orneriness out of her Lobos.
“There is no quit in us. There can’t be,” she said. “That would question your character and you never want your character questioned.
“You want to play as hard as you can. Get some momentum. Feel good about yourself. Then get to Vegas. That’s where we’re trying to get right now.”
UNM’s top scorer is Antiesha Brown at 14.1 points per game. Khadijah Shumpert is at 11.8 points per game. The key to Sanchez’s Lobos packing confidence for the Vegas trip might have more to do with winning than simply playing well. The Lobos have played well a number of times during the 2014 MW season and even in losses. However, they have fallen on the wrong side of the scoreboard. The Lobos need to pick up some wins.
Utah State is beatable – but is Schlott?
She put her team on her back in The Pit and Utah State was up 13 points with 2:53 to play. The Lobos made a decent run at the Aggies, but couldn’t stop Schlott from scoring. No other Aggie scored for Utah State in the final eight minutes. And the Lobos knew exactly who would be coming at them: Schlott.
Schlott has run away with the MW scoring race. She averages 26.1 points in 15 league games. The next best is 18.8. Schlott also has eyes for her teammates. She is No. 1 in MW league games with 5.5 assists per game. She shoots 78 percent from the free-throw line. She is the MW’s single-season scoring leader -- with games still to come.
The best defense for Schlott might be a box-and-two – with four players in a zone and two on Schlott. Of course, you would have to talk the refs into allowing six players on the court.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.