Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos Should Snap To Attention For Air Force
Feb. 5, 2013
New Mexico Women's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road - At Air Force
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (MT), New Mexico (11-9, 3-4 MW) at Air Force (2-18, 1-6 MW)
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Has it ever been easier for a New Mexico women's basketball coach to fire up the Lobos for a run with the Air Force Falcons?
All Yvonne Sanchez really has to do is bring up two historical facts:
1. The Air Force Falcons embarrassed the flat Lobos 52-47 last year in Colorado Springs to snap a 31-game UNM win streak. It was Air Force's only MW win in four seasons.
2. The 2013 Falcons beat on their home court the UNLV team that beat the Lobos in Vegas. Air Force beat the Lady Rebels by 12. UNM lost in Vegas by 11.
That should do it.
It's not always easy to ignite a sense of urgency in Lobos when it comes to Falcons. Did we mention that 31-game win streak? The Falcons also are 2-18 overall in 2012-13 and 1-6 in the Mountain West race.
The Falcons' record in the Mountain the past four years is 1-58. That one win came over UNM, which also should get the Lobos' attention. The Falcons are not a guaranteed win night. You have to show up. Ask the Lady Rebels.
A Lobo win over Air Force might come in handy for eventual seeding in the Mountain West Tournament and it would help UNM turn the MW corner with some momentum. UNM (3-4) would be on a two-game win streak.
As for the league race, the Lobos and everyone else not San Diego State, Fresno State or Wyoming are on the edge of elimination. The Aztecs and Fresno State are 6-1 and Wyoming is 6-2. UNM also has Pit losses to SDSU and Wyoming and a road loss at Fresno. They are in a hole along with the rest of the league.
The Mountain West Tournament obviously is UNM's ticket into postseason play, but the Lobos probably need some momentum - and improvement - in order to match their 2012 run to the tourney's title game.
The Lobos could find both in Air Force.
"Air Force isn't going to be easy," said Sanchez. "Going up there and getting a win would be huge. Our team is starting to settle in. Better now than never. I really like where they are at right now."
They have a variety of weapons inside in 6-foot Deeva Vaughn (10.1), 6-2 Whitney Johnson (5.3), 6-foot Khadijah Shumpert (4.4) and Jourdan Erskine (5.4 rpg). Antiesha Brown (7.5 ppg) is a strong presence on the wing and there is talent off the bench.
Sanchez compared her young team to a simmering soup at the beginning of the season and the cook is beginning to like the mix. "It's soup with potatoes and potatoes take a little longer to cook," said Sanchez, smiling.
UNM needs to be cooking for the second half of the Mountain run. It will be tough to catch the leaders, but momentum and seeding are there to grab. A loss to Air Force - with no players in its top eight over 6-foot -- would be a setback.
The Falcons are led in scoring by 5-9 Alicia Leipprandt with a 12.2 average. Air Force's scoring stats then dip down to 8.9 points per game off the shooting touch of 5-10 Dymond James.
"They get it to the people who score and we have to deter that," said Sanchez. "We are vulnerable to the drive and that's what they do best. We can't foul the drive. We have to make sure we contain and we box out. We match up pretty evenly."
Actually, this is one game where the Lobos have an advantage inside. Sanchez wants to exploit that edge in the paint.
"Get it inside, early and often," said Sanchez of one key to a road win. "We have to have a post presence. We have to establish it. We can't settle for jump shots early."
The Falcons usually take to the court looking up and often they are on the shallow end of the talent pool. That sometimes happens when you recruit to a military academy.
But with that type of person you also get a motivated athlete, who won't roll over and quit. These Falcons are fighters, especially on the defensive end.
"You know they will play hard," said Sanchez. "We have to match that intensity. The last time we went to Air Force, we didn't do so well. Air Force will run everything invented. But we are ready to build some momentum."
NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2012-13 ROSTER/STATS