Stevens: Lobos Look For Payback Saturday in Pit
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/28/2014

New Mexico Lobos Women’s Mountain West Basketball – In The Pit

Saturday: 2 p.m. (MT); Nevada (15-11, 10-5 MW) at New Mexico (9-17, 4-11 MW)

On The Air: 610-AM KNML; Mountain West Network Live Stream

GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Stats, Game Notes

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The good thing about playing a team the second time around is that there is a comfort zone around what to expect.  The Lobos know what to expect from the Nevada Wolf Pack and vice versa: a dog fight.

Or should we say a wolf fight?

Well, that’s what happened a few weeks earlier in Reno when the Wolf Pack rallied for a tooth-and-nail 75-73 win.

However, this time around the Lobos have another comfort zone: The Pit.  If The Pit advantage holds true, New Mexico has a great chance to change the scoreboard from the Lobos’ two-point loss at Reno.

“We’re going to come out and fight and give our fans everything we have,” said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez.  “We’re are staying positive... No one has quit and no one has given up."

"I respect these young ladies so much.  They love playing basketball.  They love playing for each other. They love playing for New Mexico. We have a great fan base that has supported us throughout the year."

Obviously, the Lobos need a win.  They have lost nine of 11 with all nine losses decided by seven points or fewer.  No other UNM team has lost more than eight games by fewer than seven points.  New Mexico is tied with San Jose State in the Mountain West race at 4-11 a notch above last-place Air Force at 0-15.

There is still time for the Mountain West standings to see some minor movements, but the Lobos are destined to finish in the No. 8, No. 9 or No. 10 slot.  Depending on where they fall, that means a first-round win for the Lobos in Las Vegas would give them a second-round game with either No. 1 Colorado State or against whoever finishes second.

CSU is at 14-2 and expected to hang on for the well-deserved title.  Fresno State, Wyoming, Boise State and Nevada are all at 10-5.   It will be an interesting finish, and what the Lobos need to do is find some momentum to take with them to Sin City.

Sure, there is some frustration on this team, but there is no quit.

"I respect the fact that they'll come back and be ready to play Saturday and be ready to play hard," Sanchez said of her Lobos. 

There was no quit in the Wolf Pack either in the first go-around in Reno.  The Pack rallied from a 40-31 first-half hole and was down 71-69 to UNM before slipping into the 75-73 final. The game also was tied at 73-all.

UNM’s Antiesha Brown got a nice look at a 15-footer trying to push the game into overtime, but it bounced off the rim.

A key play in that game was UNM’s Deeva Vaughn being called for a foul during a scramble for a rebound with 21 seconds to play and the score tied 73-all.  Nevada shot 30 free throws in Reno. UNM shot 19.

A key for UNM in the first half of that loss was shooting 68 percent from the field.  A key for Nevada in the second half was pulling the UNM shooters down to 34.4 percent.  Brown had 22 points, Shumpert had 15 and Vaughn scored 15 points.

Nevada does a lot of things well including scoring.  They average 72.7 points per game to UNM’s 63.2.  The Lobos will be trying to pull the score into the 60s and the Wolf Pack will be gunning for the 70s.  Nevada is No. 3 in the Mountain West in field goal percentage defense at .386 and UNM is in the No. 8 spot at .420.

The Wolf Pack is No. 1 in the Mountain in rebounding offense.

The Wolf Pack boards well, but the Lobos also board well.  UNM has a stronger inside attack and Nevada prefers to attack from the edge. They are guard heavy and guard good.  They made 11 treys vs. an athletic San Diego State team.

The Wolf Pack has 6-foot-8 Mimi Mungedi in the paint, who joins three perimeter types in double figures. The Wolf Pack has good scoring depth.  Senior Danika Sharp averages 12.9 points, Terilyn Moe has an 11.5 average, Arielle Wideman averages 10.6 points a game and Mungedi is at 10.0.

Nevada rides a three-game win streak into The Pit with the first of those wins coming over New Mexico in Reno.   The Lobos went into that first meeting with Nevada looking to improve their perimeter defense and have held UNLV, San Diego State and Utah State to 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) shooting from 3-point range.

That’s a stat that could bode well Saturday vs. Nevada.  The Wolf Pack likes to dribble-drive the ball, but they also like to launch a few bombs.

UNM’s top scorer is Antiesha Brown at 14.0 points per game. Khadijah Shumpert is at 10.5 points per game. Sara Halasz slips into double figures at 10.1 points per game and Deeva Vaughn carries a 9.8 average.  Shumpert and Halasz average 5.9 boards.

Coach Sanchez said prior to her team’s unsuccessful visit to Utah State that not a lot of teams were winning on the Mountain West road.

 Sanchez surely hopes that holds true Saturday in The Pit.

"It's never too late when you have games left on your schedule, to make a run, and its not too late for us," she said. 

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 rstevens50@comcast.net.