Photo by R.Stevens
Photo by R.Stevens
Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos Open MW Tournament Monday
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/09/2014

New Mexico Lobos Women’s Basketball at the 2014 Reese’s Mountain West Tournament

Monday: 3 p.m. (MT) – New Mexico (11-18, 6-12 MW) vs. Utah State (14-15, 8-10 MW)

When/Where:  Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center

On The Air:  610-AM with Joe Behrend; Live Stream on Mountain West Network

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In a way, the New Mexico Lobos’ formula to advancement in the 2014 Reese’s Mountain West Tournament is simple: Stop Jennifer Schlott.

But how do you do it?  Do you borrow the Steve Fisher 1-3-1 zone?  Do you go box and one? Do you put Antiesha Brown on the Mountain West’s Player of The Year, push the leftie to her right and get some help in that direction?

Do you pray?

"We are going to have to do what we can to slow Schlott down," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. "We're going to work on some different things." 

It’s doubtful that Schlott will be intimidated by “Pit West” when No. 8 Utah State and No. 9 New Mexico open the MW tourney at 3 p.m. (MT), Monday in the Las Vegas Thomas & Mack.

Schlott, who has scored 30 or more in five straight games, scored 30 in The Pit in front of a crowd surely bigger than what UNM will get Monday in Vegas.  The Lobo men play on Thursday.

“This is our last run, our last go-around,” said senior Sara Halasz.  “I think for everyone on the team that’s how we have to come out thinking.  This is it. We have to give everything we have, no matter what.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd the Lobos draw on Monday.  The expanded Mountain has forced the conference to spread out the tournament over six days with six women’s teams drawing a Monday start.

“I know it’s tough to come out on a Monday and it’s tough for fans to go for a whole week, but some are,” said Coach Sanchez. “And they are going to cheer us on and we’re going to have more fans than our opponents.

“That brings momentum to the players. We're ready to hit Vegas."

The other two first-round games are No. 7 UNLV vs. No. 10 San Jose State at 5:30 p.m. (MT) and No. 6 San Diego State plays No. 11 Air Force at 8 p.m. (MT).  The top five teams in the Mountain got a first-round bye and will open play on Tuesday.

The winners Tuesday get two days’ rest and play again in Friday’s semifinals, so fatigue will not be a huge factor. The winner of the UNM/Utah State game advances to play No. 1 seed and MW champion, Colorado State.  Fresno State grabbed the No. 2 seed and Nevada is No. 3.

“It’s hard to be a team three times,” said Halasz of Utah State's challenge vs. UNM.

Antiesha Brown on Drive

Which also means it’s difficult to lose to a team three times.

“People are scared to play us again,” said senior Deeva Vaughn.  “We are going to go in there and fight. It’s not going to be an easy rollover just because of our conference (record) or what our overall status is. We are going to go in with confidence.

“I feel we have the ability to win the Mountain West Tournament.”

New Mexico and Utah State are close in ability and talent.  The Aggies won the two regular-season games by a total of eight points.  The Aggies picked up a big addition late in the season as 5-foot-11 Makenlee Williams came back after an injury.  She is averaging 16.3 points per game and takes some of the pressure to score off Schlott’s shoulders.

Utah State tops the Mountain in scoring and Schlott is the MW leading scorer with an impressive 26.3 average. The Aggies have some size in 6-4 Tijana Djukic, 6-2 Franny Vaaulu, and 6-2 Stephanie Bairstow, sister of UNM’s Cameron Bairstow.

“We have to make shots and we will,” said Coach Sanchez. “We have to play smart and take care of the ball.  It’s a different format playing on Monday, but it’s tournament time. If you let anything distract you at tournament time, then you’re just not prepared.

"They are going to play a zone so if we execute like we did (vs. SDSU), I like our chances."

The Lobos have seen Schlott and the Aggies twice and ditto for the Aggies looking at Brown, Halasz, Vaughn, Khadijah Shumpert, Bryce Owens and the rest of the Lobos.  There isn’t much mystery to this rematch. One team will play better and shoot better and win.

It probably would be in the Lobos’ advantage if they controlled the scoreboard heading down the stretch because they could not control Schlott down the stretch in the previous meetings. Schlott can be deadly, but she also is clutch.  She also leads the MW in assists, so teams often pay when they double team her.

There is a reason she is the MW Player of the Year and the league’s all-time single-season scoring champion. She is deceptive, quick, smooth – and makes her shots.  The Aggies also have three starters shooting 80 percent or better at the free-throw line which helps them finish games.

The Lobos obviously have a huge challenge ahead of them, but they also have some good Thomas & Mack history. They are the winningest program in MW Tournament history.  They haven’t lost a tournament opener in seven seasons.  And it’s Pit West.

But the road at Vegas not only is challenging; it is long.  The Lobos won four total games in January and February and now they have to win four games in a week in order to snatch the league’s automatic NCAA bid.

Or end the season.

“It’s a different season and you go into a different mode,” said Sanchez.  “It’s just new life.  You don’t have a record in Vegas.  You are zero and zero and you just go out and play.”

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.

New Mexico Lobos 2013-14 Roster

No. Sort by Number
Name Sort by Name
Pos. Sort by Position
Ht. Sort by Height
Yr. Sort by Eligibility Year
Exp. Sort by Years Experience
Hometown (Prev School)
1   Brooke Allemand G 5-4 Fr. HS Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas (Boerne-Samuel V. Champion HS)
3   Josie Greenwood F 5-11 Fr. HS Hobart, Australia (Rosny College)
4   Alex Lapeyrolerie G 5-11 Fr. HS Highland Village, Texas (Edward S. Marcus HS)
11   Alexa Chavez F 6-0 So. 1L Santa Fe, N.M. (St. Michael's HS)
12   Bryce Owens G 5-4 So. 1L DeSoto, Texas (DeSoto HS)
13   Khadijah Shumpert F 6-0 So. 1L Minneapolis, Minn. (Benilde St. Margaret's HS)
15   Antiesha Brown G 5-10 RJr. 1L Clovis, N.M. (Texas Tech)
20   Sara Halasz G 5-11 RSr. 3L Ohatchee, Ala. (Lakes (Wash.) HS)
21   Marissa Perry G 5-4 Fr. HS Albuquerque, N.M. (Hope Christian HS)
25   Brea Mitchell G 5-10 So. 1L Plano, Texas (Plano West HS)
30   Lauren Newman F 6-1 Fr. HS El Paso, Texas (El Dorado HS)
32   Kianna Keller F 6-4 Fr. HS Waukesha, Wisc. (Waukesha West HS)
33   Maddie Muraida C 6-2 Jr. 2L Albuquerque, N.M. (Albuquerque Academy)
34   Whitney Johnson C 6-2 RSo. 1L Highland, Utah (Lone Peak HS)
42   Ebony Walker C 6-2 RJr. RS Albuquerque, N.M. (Texas Tech)
44   Deeva Vaughn F 6-0 RSr. 1L Albuquerque, N.M. (Northern Oklahoma - Enid)