ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – One of the more challenging nonconference tests awaits the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team in 2014-15, with three teams that reached the Sweet Sixteen or better in last year’s NCAA Tournament on the schedule.
The Lobos are hoping to use the pre-Mountain West schedule to get them ready for league play, which begins Dec. 31 at Fresno State.
“We jump into the fire early with some tough games,” head coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “But I feel we’re at a point in our program where playing some of the nation’s best teams is going to be beneficial to us over the course of the season. We won’t have any excuses about not being prepared when we enter conference play.”
UNM’s Nov. 24 home game against Stanford, which reached the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, highlights the nonconference schedule. The Cardinal finished with a 33-4 record, winning the Pac-12 regular-season title with a 17-1 record. Two of their losses came to national champion Connecticut, including their meeting in the national semifinals.
The Cardinal, who lost All-America Chiney Ogwumike to graduation, still return their next three leading scorers in Amber Orrange, Lili Thompson and Bonnie Samuelson.
After an exhibition against Eastern New Mexico on Nov. 9 to start the season, the Lobos waste no time going into the deep end of the women’s hoops talent pool when they travel to Chicago for DePaul’s home tournament, the Maggie Dixon Classic from Nov. 14-16. UNM will face Texas A&M and DePaul, both of which also were among the NCAA’s elite teams last season, as part of its three-game trip.
Texas-Pan American will be the other team at the Maggie Dixon Classic, which precedes UNM’s game against Stanford at The Pit.
“The Maggie Dixon Classic is important to me because Maggie was an incredible coach and person, and we are privileged to play in her honor,” Sanchez said.
In most years, a meeting with Texas A&M alone would highlight a nonconference schedule. The Aggies compiled a 27-9 record in 2013-14 and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, also falling to eventual national champion Connecticut. The Aggies went 13-3 in Southeastern Conference play last season, matching their best-ever conference record.
A&M’s top two scorers from last season, Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams, both will return for their senior seasons.
DePaul had an impressive 2013-14 season, reaching the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. The Big East regular-season and conference tournament champion finished 29-7, including a 13-2 record at home. The Blue Demons return three of their top four scorers and their leading rebounder.
The Lobos play host to their own Thanksgiving Holiday Tournament from Nov. 28-29. Also competing in the event are 2014 Women’s Basketball Invitational finalist Stephen F. Austin, Boston University and UC Riverside. The matchups are still to be announced.
UNM then travels to 2014 NCAA Tournament representative and 22-game winner Texas on Dec. 3. The Longhorns, who advanced to the round of 32 at the tournament, return three of their top five leading scorers, including 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford.
After the Rio Grande Rivalry game against New Mexico State in Las Cruces on Dec. 7, the Lobos return to The Pit to face 2014 Women’s National Invitation Tournament finalist UTEP. The Miners had a 29-8 record last season, finishing 12-4 in Conference USA.
Two-year starter Chrishauna Parker and sharpshooter Jenzel Nash (11.5 points off the bench in 2013-14) return to lead the Miners.
UNM’s nonconference schedule concludes with home games against WNIT representative Cal Poly and Northern Arizona.
|Nov. 9||Eastern New Mexico (Exhibition)|
|Maggie Dixon Classic (DePaul host)|
|Nov. 14||vs. Texas-Pan American (at Chicago)|
|Nov. 15||vs. Texas A&M (at Chicago)|
|Nov. 16||vs. DePaul (at Chicago)|
|UNM Thanksgiving Tournament|
|Nov. 28||(TBA - Boston U., UC Riverside, SF Austin)|
|Nov. 29||(TBA - Boston U., UC Riverside, SF Austin)|
|Dec. 3||at Texas|
|Dec. 7||at New Mexico State|
|Dec. 18||Cal Poly|
|Dec. 21||Northern Arizona|
|Mountain West Conference|
|Dec, 31||at Fresno State|
|Jan. 3||at Colorado State|
|Jan. 7||San Diego State|
|Jan. 10||Utah State|
|Jan. 14||at Air Force|
|Jan. 17||at Boise State|
|Jan. 31||at San Jose State|
|Feb. 4||Air Force|
|Feb. 7||at Utah State|
|Feb. 11||Colorado State|
|Feb. 18||at San Diego State|
|Feb. 21||at UNLV|
|Feb 25||Boise State|
|Feb. 28||Fresno State|
|Mar. 6||at Wyoming|
|Mar. 9-13||Mountain West Tournament (Las Vegas, Nev.)|