New Mexico Lobos Women’s Thanksgiving Tournament – In The Pit
Friday: 5 p.m., SE Missouri vs. Arkansas; 7 p.m., Binghamton at New Mexico
Saturday: 5 p.m., Third Place Game; 7 p.m., Championship Game
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By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Tournament preparation can be tough. There are times when you can figure out the odds and figure out who you will play next – hopefully in the championship game.
But you can’t really prepare for that team. You have to beat who is in front of you or you might not reach the title game. Yvonne Sanchez’s Lobos want to reach the title game. They can’t look ahead to undefeated Arkansas (6-0) or maybe SE Missouri.
So, first things first: Binghamton of the America East Conference.
"It's one of those weeks where you can't look ahead," said Sanchez. "Nobody looks ahead. We can't afford to."
On paper – and even on the scoreboard -- the Binghamton Bearcats look to have some work to do. They are coming off a 6-24 season and will bring an 0-4 mark into The Pit on Friday in their 40-minute run with the New Mexico Lobos.
The Lobos will be expected to win which puts pressure on the Lobos and as the Bearcats will give the Lobos their best game.
The Bearcats will play like they have nothing to lose. Teams like this sometimes play loose and hit the shots they have not been hitting all season. The Bearcats will look to improve their shooting. They are shooting .305 percent from the field over their four losses. Their opponents have averaged .468 percent.
“I think the big thing for this team is how well we start this year,” Bearcat Coach Nicole Scholl said in the Binghamton media guide. “Last year, we got off to a very slow start. I think that mentality needs to change for this group.”
The ‘Cats have not started well in 2013. They are coming to New Mexico with an 0-4 record and coming off a 69-53 loss at Niagara. The Bearcats got double figures in that loss from 5-foot-10 Morgan Murphy (12) and 5-11 Kandace Newry (11). Morgan, a starter, also was a starter a season back finishing the year with a 7.0 scoring average. Newry was a reserve last season and came off the bench vs. Niagara.
In four games, 6-foot Sherae Swinson is the leading scorer and the only scorer in double figures with a 13.3 average. She was the Bearcats top scorer in 2012-13 with a 9.9 average and is hauling down boards at a 6.8 clip this season. Murphy is averaging 7.5 points and Kim Albrecht is averaging 7.0 points and 4.5 boards.
The Bearcats have not electrified the scoreboard this season averaging 50.2 points. They have allowed 72.2 point in going winless. They are not a tall team with their tallest players listed at 6-foot-2: Julia Barac, who averages only five minutes a game.
There are many ways to envision a Lobo win. The Bearcats are not tall. The Bearcats are not deep with only seven players averaging more than seven minutes a game.
The Lobos will have advantages inside and probably with numbers. The Bearcats will be playing at altitude. The Lobos should be able to wear the Bearcats down.
The Lobos might have trouble not looking past these Bearcats, but UNM is 2-3 on the year and wise enough to see Binghamton as an opportunity to repeat the second-half performance the Lobos threw out in a nice-looking 72-58 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Lobos looked sharp in that game. They dominated the boards. They played good defense. They got double-doubles from Khadijah Shumpert (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Sara Halasz (11/11). Antiesha Brown had 14 points. Bryce Owens had seven points, five boards, six assists and three steals in 35 minutes. Deeva Vaughn had eight points and five assists.
The second half was solid. Now, the Lobos need to throw out a full 40 minutes because there are a lot of teams on the UNM horizon that won’t be beat in 20 minutes. Maybe Saturday in the championship game.
In the 5 p.m., game Friday in The Pit, you have to give the paper edge to Arkansas. They are 6-0 and SE Missouri is 2-4. Arkansas has an impressive 66-51 victory over Middle Tennessee State, who is receiving votes in the latest national poll.
Arkansas is led by Jessica Jackson who scores 14.8 points per game at a .469 shooting percentage. . Kiera Peak and Kelsey Brooks score in double digits at 13.0 and 11.7 points per game. SE Missouri’s Kara Wright scored 26 at Missouri.
“We need to get out on the road and play in a different environment,” said Arkansas Coach Tom Collen on the Razorbacks’ website. “. You've got to learn to accept the challenge of playing in front of a crowd, shooting at different baskets, playing with a different basketball and there are all kinds of little things like that.
“I think it's a good step for this young team right now."
If there is an edge in knowing The Pit, Collen has it. He coached at Colorado State where he led the Becky Hammon-led Rams (33-3) into the Sweet 16 in 1999. Collen’s Rams were one of the league bullies. His Razorbacks enter the 2013-14 season with the 20th-ranked recruiting class (ESPNW.com).
"It's a unique venue," Collen said of University Arena. "I know I have a lot of history with it having coached at Colorado State, we used to go to The Pit every single year. I think it will be a good experience. Playing at altitude, that will be a unique experience.
“If we end up battling against New Mexico, they're going to have to fight that crowd a little bit. I think it's a win-win for us."
Wait! Does this mean Collen and his Razorbacks are looking past SE Missouri to a championship battle with New Mexico?
But maybe . .
New Mexico Lobos -- 2013-14 Roster