Stevens: Lobos Look To Back Aggie Sweep With Win At UTEP
Dec. 18, 2012
SANCHEZ'S LOBOS FACE A 9-1 UTEP MINERS' TEAM THAT LIKES TO POUND THE GLASS
On The Air: 610-AM - The Sports Animal
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To measure the UTEP Miners by their 9-1 record creates an obvious and accurate statement.
They are good and Yvonne Sanchez's Lobos will be severely tested Thursday night in the Don Haskins Center.
But an interesting/confusing footnote is that single stain on the UTEP ledger. It was a loss at New Mexico State to the Aggie team the Lobos rolled by 24 in Cruces on Tuesday.
If you want to stir another confusing element into the Lobos vs. Miners mix, you can shake in the Miners' win over the Arizona team that beat the Lobos in The Pit.
So much for comparative scores clearing up the crystal ball.
For sure, the Lobos are the underdogs vs. UTEP simply because of the site of the battle. It's UTEP turf. The Miners typically defend it well.
The Miners are coming off a huge win at Kansas State in which UTEP rallied from 10 down to produce the win.
"They are a scary team," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. "We played maybe our best game at New Mexico State and we might have to play better at UTEP. They are very good."
One huge challenge for UNM is keeping the athletic Miners off the glass. UTEP lost one of its top players - 6-foot-4 center Kristine Vitola -- early in the year to a knee injury and are trying to fill that hole by winning key statistical battles such as the rebounding war.
UTEP out-rebounds its enemy by more than seven boards a game.
The Miners also look to disrupt teams with intense pressure both in the half court and the full court. They are creating 19.6 turnovers a game and a lot of those miscues are converted into transition buckets for the Miners. The Lobos had 18 turnovers at NMSU.
UTEP is led in scoring by 6-1 Kayla Thornton with a 13.3 average. The 6-2 Anete Steinberga has done a nice job filling in for Vitola and is averaging 12.7 points and 5.4 boards. Thornton is the top Miner on the glass with an 8.7 average.
UNM has a strong guard in 5-10 Chrishauna Parker who scores at a 10.0 clip and hauls down 7.3 boards a game. The point is run by 5-6 Kelli Willingham with an 8.8 scoring average and 3.4 assists per game. Her matchup with UNM's Bryce Owens will be key.
Against an athletic, pressing team like UTEP, the recent addition of transfer Antiesha Brown is a big addition. Brown gives UNM another athletic guard, who also has the potential to be an outstanding defender. The Lobos also could use the extra body against a Miner team that tries to wear you down.
The Miners aren't as dominating inside as they might have been with Vitola in the mix, but this is still a Miner team that hits the glass hard and loves to play defense.
The Lobos lead the series 24-13, but UTEP has won three of the past four contests. The Miners were the Conference USA champs last year and played in the NCAA Tournament.
LOBOS EARN SWEEP OF NMSU AGGIES WITH 68-44 ROMP IN CRUCES
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Are the New Mexico State Aggies so desperate to fill the Pan American Center for the visit by Steve Alford's No. 16 Lobos that the Aggies will give free tickets to the New Mexico women's team?
Well, that's probably not the reason, but one reward for Yvonne Sanchez's Lobos in the wake of their 68-44 slap down of Aggies Tuesday night was receiving free passes to Wednesday night's men's game.
"They are pretty excited. It's a great reward," Sanchez said of Wednesday's trip back up to Las Cruces. "This is a nice thing that they can support the men."
In their quest for a sweep of I-25 South through Las Cruces and into El Paso, the 8-3 Lobos already have one sweep.
Sanchez's Lobos convincingly slapped down the NMSU Aggies by 24 points Tuesday night in the Aggies' Pan American Center to earn a 2012 sweep of the Aggies. UNM also posted a 60-37 romp in The Pit on Nov. 20.
On Thursday, the Lobos visit a tougher UTEP team looking for a sweep of this I-25 journey. The Miners lost to NMSU in Cruces but backed that up with an impressive 66-44 roll of Aggies in the Don Haskins Center.
"UTEP is pretty good," said Coach Sanchez. "(UTEP) just beat Kansas State 52-50. They lost their best player early to an ACL and they just keep winning.
"They want a tight half-court game and we haven't won there in a long time."
The Lobos ran to a 39-22 first-half lead over NMSU behind Caroline Durbin's 14 points and held off the Aggies in the second half. Really, the Aggies never threatened to win this thing as UNM put together one of its better games of the season.
"They are scary at home," Sanchez said of the Aggies. "They came back from 15 here at home to beat UTEP. At half, we told the kids, `This is not over. They are going to make a run.' They made a few runs but we continued to match them.
"I thought this was the best 40 minutes we've put together this year. I told them if they wanted to get this win, we had to earn it, that they (NMSU) weren't going to give it to us."
Durbin was the only Lobo in double figures with 18. Sara Halasz had nine, but did not score in the second half. UNM ended up with 30 bench points to 4 for NMSU. The Lobo bench scored 18 of UNM's 29 second-half points. Antiesha Brown, making her Lobo debut, was the top scorer off the bench with eight points.
"That's indicative of what we can bring off the bench; 30-to-4 is incredible," said Sanchez. "We bring in kids (off the bench) who can help us. They did an incredible job. This was definitely a team effort."
The Lobos shot 47.5 percent over the Aggies going 5-of-13 from 3-point range. UNM dominated the boards 42-27.
The Aggies shot 38.5 percent from the field, but that percentage was damaged by 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) from long range.
"We switched a lot and I think our length bothered them a little bit," said Sanchez. "We just really dug in (on defense)."
The Aggies came out of the half down by 17 points and needed to steadily cut into UNM's lead in order to make it a game in the stretch run. At a media break at the 10:45 mark, the Aggies had only reduced the UNM lead by a point: 49-33. The UNM bench had outscored the Aggie bench 18-2 at that point.
The Aggies played better in the second half, but the Lobos refused to crumble and came up with big buckets during the few moments it appeared the Aggies might make a run.
When Durbin went coast to coast to feed Jayme Jackson for a layup, the Lobos were up 58-40 with fewer than six minutes to play. That pretty much ended it.
UNM's Jordyn Peacock threw up a jump hook to push UNM into a 20-point lead at 60-40 and the Lobos coasted in for the 68-44 final.
First Half: New Mexico Lobos 39, New Mexico State 22
"The first half did dictate it," said Coach Sanchez.
It was a game the Lobos probably won in the first half. They simply rolled on offense.
The Aggies let Durbin go off for 14 first-half points as New Mexico powered to a 39-22 halftime lead. Durbin went 4-of-5 from 3-point range to help UNM shoot 50 percent in the first half. The Aggies shot 26.9 percent in the first half going 3-of-14 from long range.
The Lobos' 17-point bulge was fueled by a 23-to-12 edge on the boards. Halasz had nine points in the first 20 minutes going 4-of-4 from the floor.
"Caroline was real confident in her shooting tonight," said Sanchez. "Sara gave us a huge lift. I think this was her best game defensively."