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MWC Stretch Run Set To Begin

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Boise State Is In Town for Rematch

The Mountain West Conference tournament is still a month away.

But preparations start now.

Such is the mindset for the UNM women’s basketball team, which starts its conference stretch run today against Boise State at the Pit.

Today
Boise State at UNM, 2 p.m.
Radio: KNML-AM (610)

After an 0-6 start in MWC play, the Lobos (7-14, 1-6) climbed into seventh place by knocking off Air Force on Tuesday. They can move up another rung today with a win over the Broncos (11-11, 2-5), but that’s not the only incentive for coach Yvonne Sanchez’s team.

“This game is big because it can really give us momentum,” Sanchez said. “We started so slowly in the first half, we really need a jump-start in the second half.”

Boise State helped put the Lobos on the skids Jan. 11. The Broncos opened the second half of that game with a 10-0 run and never looked back in a 65-46 victory at Boise.

Broncos forward Lauren Lenhardt torched UNM for 23 points, but that’s not what Sanchez and her players remember most about the teams’ first conference meeting. UNM coughed up 23 turnovers and allowed BSU to grab 17 offensive rebounds. Both subjects came up frequently during New Mexico’s Friday practice at the Pit.

“We did not play well at all against them the first time,” UNM’s Caroline Durbin said. “We’re definitely capable of a lot better.”

Timing didn’t work in New Mexico’s favor in the first meeting. Junior Deeva Vaughn collided with a teammate during practice prior to the game and was pulled from the lineup with concussion symptoms. Junior Jourdan Erskine was still out with a stress fracture, as well.

Vaughn is out for the season but Erskine has since returned and is regaining her early-season form. Senior walk-on Ashley Rhoades also has begun making a greater impact, which has Sanchez feeling better about the second half of MWC play.

“I really think we’re starting to feel more comfortable as a group,” Sanchez said. “Jourdan and Ashley definitely make us stronger inside. Teams were having their way with us inside when conference play first started.”

Today’s rematch also carries significance for Boise State, which is mired in a five-game losing streak. The Broncos had the Mountain West’s top scoring offense prior to the slide, but they’ve averaged just 58.6 points per game during it.

“I can’t really explain that,” Sanchez said. “They’ve got talented players and do some really good things, especially on offense. It just seems like they haven’t been shooting well lately, but that can turn around at any time.”

If Boise’s offense has slumped, Lenhardt hasn’t been affected. She’s leading the conference in scoring, ranks third in field-goal percentage and is slightly ahead of Durbin for the league lead in 3-point accuracy. Lenhardt put up 24 points against San Diego State on Wednesday and averages 20.7 in MWC play.

“She can score from anywhere,” Sanchez said. “She really makes them go.”

Porche Torrance will draw the defensive assignment on Lenhardt, Sanchez said.

“In some ways they’re a tough matchup for us,” Sanchez said. “(Katie) Isham is playing the point now, and she’s able to score and facilitate. But we’re a better team than we were a month ago. We’re excited to see how much better.”

NOTES: Durbin was named a member of the Capital One Academic All-District Women’s Basketball Team this week, the first Lobo to achieve the honor since Julie Briody in 2007. Durbin, who leads the Lobos in scoring at 14.9 ppg, is a business major and carries a 4.16 grade-point average.

UNM is offering a Youth Day promotion for today’s contest, with single-game bench tickets being sold for $2 for fans ages 2 to 18.
— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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