New Mexico Lobo Women’s Basketball – In The Pit
Who/When: 1 p.m., Saturday – Colorado at New Mexico
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend & Nikki Heckroth
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By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It’s not the type of learning experience any athletic team prefers to face, but as Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez puts it: “You can’t use anything as an excuse. You just have to move on.”
The New Mexico Lobos – minus two post players -- move on toward the No. 16/20 ranked Colorado Buffaloes, who step into The Pit Saturday looking to stay undefeated.
The Buffs also might be thinking about pounding the ball inside on the Lobos, who are without 6-2 Ebony Walker for the season and minus 6-foot Khadijah Shumpert for the game. Walker was lost to an Achilles injury and Shumpert is out of town attending a family funeral.
“It’s kind of a learning experience,” said UNM’s Antiesha Brown, who leads UNM in scoring with a 19.7 average. “We have to pull together as a team to try and fill that gap.
“It’s a chance for our team to realize, ‘Hey, we have to do this for each other.”
The Brown/Walker combo was a tough one to lose. It gave UNM a bold one-two scoring combination. Walker (10.3 ppg) was scoring inside with power. Brown is a slasher, who can score inside, drive or hit the jumper.
“Your heart feels for the kid,” said Sanchez of Walker, who went down in the loss to Texas. “She comes out here (from Texas Tech) and is playing awfully well. It’s tough.
“But we have some players who have stepped up. Kianna Keller is playing exceptionally well. We have to do it (post play) by committee. That’s how we’re going to have to do it (Saturday).”
The committee inside will be Keller, 6-0 Deeva Vaughn, 5-11 Josie Greenwood and 6-0 Alexa Chavez, a product of St. Michael’s High in Santa Fe. UNM also lost 6-2 Whitney Johnson to injury prior to the season opener. UNM also has 6-2 Maddie Muraida. Keller is a 6-4 freshman, who has played with a lot of poise and confidence so far this season. She gets her first career start Saturday vs. Colorado.
Without Walker, the scoring load just got heavier for Brown, but her Lobo teammates could lighten that load by providing some help on the scoreboard. Brown is the only remaining Lobo averaging more than eight points a game, but there are some shooters on the UNM team. They just haven’t yet warmed up.
The Lobos are shooting 34 percent from the field – 10th among Mountain West teams in the young season. UNM is shooting 24.6 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Colorado would be a good foe to warm up for. The Buffs are good. They average 78.7 points per game and hold opponents to 59.7. UNM is scoring at a 59.0 clip and giving up 65.3. Colorado has won by a plus 19 points in rolling out its three wins. The Buffs have been shooting 42.4 percent from the floor.
“They are awfully good and they are playing really well,” said Coach Sanchez.
Said UNM’s Bryce Owens: “Last year’s game was really horrible for us (84-39). We basically laid down and let them run all over us. This year we have a completely different mindset... We’re going to play ‘til the end of the game no matter what the score is and we’re going to fight. We have to stay locked in throughout the whole game and knock down shots.”
The Buffs have three players in double figures in 6-foot Jasmine Sborov (11.0), 6-1 Arlelle Roberson (10.7) and 5-7 Brittany Wilson (12.7). This trio is more of a perimeter threat, but they like to dribble drive and go to the free-throw line. Colorado has 6-4 Rachel Hargis inside with a modest 4.0 average, but she hits 50 percent of her shots.
Will she take more shots against the thin UNM post?
“Their posts are very effective,” said Brown. “Their guards are very quick and their posts are very effective down low.”
There are several keys for the Lobos to pull this upset in The Pit. They can’t let the Buffaloes run and get easy buckets. They need to hang with Colorado on the boards. The Buffs have a plus-14.7 edge on the boards in their three games.
“The wings are going to have to fly in there (and rebound),” said Brown.
Said Sanchez: “Our keys are transition defense and executing on offense. We have to get down there and just be confident. Colorado is a very good team, but I think we are, too.”
Colorado is coming off a 25-7 campaign in 2012-13 that saw them earn a fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Buffs were upset by Kansas in the first round of the tournament. New Mexico is coming off a 52-67 loss to Texas on Tuesday evening in The Pit.
The Lobos will be wearing special uniforms for Saturday with turquoise lettering and numbers. The look is a throwback for New Mexico as the color was part of Lobo basketball’s jerseys in the 1970’s. The turquoise-infused jerseysare part of “Turquoise Day” at The Pit. Fans who wear turquoise can purchase a bench seat for $2.