Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos Visit No. 4 Stanford
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/15/2013

New Mexico Lobos Women’s Basketball – At Stanford

When/Who:  8 p.m. (MT),  Monday --  New Mexico Lobos (4-4) at Stanford Cardinal (8-1)

Television: PAC-12 Network (Comcast Ch. 284 and DISH Ch. 413 or 406 in Albuquerque)

On The Air: 610-AM with Joe Behrend

GoLobos.com:  Game Story, Game Stats

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.co

The Lobo men ran into a team of mystique and tradition on Saturday and lost by 17 to Kansas.  The New Mexico Lobo women run the same gauntlet of mystique, tradition and talent -- with at least one major difference.

The Kansas Jayhawks were only considered the No. 13 team in the nation.  Tara VanDerveer’s Cardinal are ranked No. 4 and No. 6 in the nation.  And the Cardinal might have the best woman player in the nation in 6-foot-4 senior Chiney Ogwumike, who Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez says “might be the No. 1 WNBA draft choice" in 2014.

Yeah, Ogwumike is that good.  If she doesn’t go No. 1, she’ll probably go No. 2.   Just check out the stats she will carry into Maples Pavilion Monday night in Palo Alto, Calif.

She averages 25 points, 11 boards and is shooting 62 percent from the floor.  Give Ogwumike a point guard and the two Cardinal players probably wouldn’t be easy to beat.  Ogwumike has a whole bunch of talented Stanford players around her.

“They have solid players all around,” said Lobo senior Sara Halasz.

“Solid” might be an understatement.  The Lobos are heading into a buzz saw of talent at Stanford.  The Cardinal have ten players in double digit minutes.  Of course, Ogwumike is the focus and not just on the offensive end where she has been tearing teams up.  Ogwumike is an outstanding athlete.  She is nasty on the defensive end, too.

Ogwumike does have a nice point guard to help get her the ball and help on the scoreboard.  The 5-7 Amber Orrange scores at a 12.3 clip and averages 4.2 assists.  She hits at a 52 percent rate from the field.   The 6-2 Mikaela Ruef is tough inside with an 7.6 scoring average and a 9.4 board average.  Ogwumike is tough enough inside, but Ruef makes it difficult to double down defensively on Ogwumike.

Obviously, Ogwumike is playing at a high level.  The two-time All-American has pulled in three PAC-12 Player of the Week honors in the young season.   The Cardinal are 8-1 with the loss coming to top-ranked UConn.  

“It’s a good opportunity for our kids to play a quality program,” said Sanchez.  “They are awfully good.  We have to be ready for everything.  We have to play very high-level basketball. 

“Stanford is going to score, but we have to make them work for everything.  We have to make it difficult for them, so it gives us a chance.  You just go in there, work hard, and leave everything out on the floor.  As long as we go hard and play hard, I can live with the results.”

The results of the Lobos’ last trip to Palo Alto were not good.  Stanford won 84-46.  One good thing about this season’s trip is that the Cardinal will return the favor.

“It seems like a huge task going up there and playing Stanford at Stanford, but they will come back next year and play in The Pit,” said Sanchez.

The Lobos’ game plan is obvious enough.  Make Ogwumike and the Cardinal work for their points.  Don’t give them second-chance points.  Keep them off the boards.  Don’t let the Cardinal run.  Take care of the basketball.  And hit a lot of shots.

Like Sanchez said:  Stanford will score.  They hit 73 in a 73-45 waltz over an outstanding Gonzaga team that was ranked No. 23/22. Stanford had 11 of 13 players score in that game.  The Cardinal also flexed their defensive muscle holding Gonzaga to 34.4 percent shooting and no 3-pointers.  The Zags were 0-of-14 from long range against the pressure created by the Stanford guards.

Stanford also has scored 83, 86, 86, 83 and 80 points in wins this season.  The Stanford game with UNM is wedged between home games with ranked Gonzaga and No. 3 Tennessee.   It wouldn’t hurt the Lobos’ bid for an upset if Stanford was looking ahead to Tennessee’s visit to California.

“We have to show them that we’re not going to back down,” said Halasz.  “This is a great opportunity for us to go in and play a ranked team.  I think it’s going to be fun. Going into a game like this, you have to play with an intensity and try to match the intensity of what they’re going to bring.”

UNM’s 6-foot Khadijah Shumpert and/or 6-4 freshman Kianna Keller probably will get the chore of slowing down Ogwumike.  The athletic Cardinal is a special player.  She is five points away from being the fifth Stanford player to enter the Cardinal 2,000 Points/1,000 Rebound Club. Her older sister, Nnemkadi Ogwumike, also is in that elite club.

I’m really excited to play someone as talented as she is,” said Shumpert of Ogwumike.  “It’s going to be fun. I’m really excited to go out and play Stanford.  I think we have a shot.”

The Lobos might be minus Deeva Vaughn for the game.  The senior is still battling concussion-like symptoms.  UNM lost another inside player, 6-2 Ebony Walker, earlier for the season.   The Lobos have won three of their past four games.  Antiesha Brown paces UNM’s offense with a 16.3 average and Halasz scores at a 10.8 clip.  Shumpert is close to double digits with her 9.9 average.