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Seniors Seek 1st Win in Fort Collins

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Lobos Look To Even League Mark

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Scenic Rocky Mountain backdrop aside, Colorado State University has been anything but a winter wonderland for the UNM women’s basketball team in recent years.

Moby Arena has instead been something of a winter wasteland for the Lobos. New Mexico hasn’t won here since 2009, meaning the current seniors have never prevailed on the Rams’ home court.

Other than Boise State, where they’ve played just once, CSU is the only Mountain West road venue where UNM’s seniors have not won. They’d love to erase that résumé shortcoming when the Lobos visit the Rams tonight.

“Yes, that’s motivation,” senior Jourdan Erskine said Tuesday. “We finally won at Wyoming last year, and we’ve won everywhere else. We need to get the job done at Colorado State.”

A conference road win would be significant for all of the Lobos. After opening MWC play with close defeats at UNLV and Fresno State, UNM (9-7, 1-2) has a chance to square its league record, with back-to-back home games on the horizon.

But tonight’s contest is equally important for the Rams (5-11, 1-2), who have already dropped a conference home game to San Diego State and are desperate to build some sort of momentum.

“Colorado State’s record doesn’t show how well they’ve played at home,” Lobos coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “They took San Diego State to the very end (losing 48-44), and you know they’re going to come hard after us.”

The Rams’ primary strength is inside. Sam Martin, Meghan Heimstra and Kara Spotton all stand 6-foot-2, and CSU works to get the ball to its posts as often as possible.

“They are big,” Erskine said. “Our post players really have to defend.”

Sanchez believes her posts are up to the task — and thinks UNM can counter CSU’s size with quickness and depth.

“I think we can pressure them and cause some problems,” Sanchez said. “They’ll try to slow us down and work the clock, and we want to push the ball up and down as much as we can.”

Tonight’s game will be UNM’s first encounter with the Rams under first-year coach Ryun Williams. He coached at South Dakota, Wayne State and Sheridan College before taking over in Fort Collins.

Sanchez has been impressed with what she’s seen of Williams and expects him to dip into his bag of tricks tonight.

“I expect a lot of zone and probably some kind of junk defenses,” Sanchez said. “Whether it’s box-and-one, triangle-and-two, they’ll probably try to confuse us and make things tough on our guards. It’s just another way to slow things down.”

The Lobos could have a matchup advantage when Deeva Vaughn is on the court. The 6-foot junior forward is strong enough to match CSU’s posts inside but quick and versatile enough to create problems on the perimeter.

Vaughn missed last week’s home victory over Boise State with a foot injury, but has since returned to practice and is expected to come off the bench tonight.

Like UNM, Colorado State has been turnover prone, and Sanchez hopes her team can effectively wear down the Rams’ ballhandlers. UNLV forced 23 turnovers in a 63-50 victory over CSU in Las Vegas on Sunday.

If they can be equally disruptive tonight, the Lobos may finally see Fort Collins as an enjoyable winter destination.

“Colorado State has been the elusive game for this group,” Sanchez said. “I know our seniors really want this one, but they’re going to have to execute and earn it.”

NOTES: Two of the Mountain West’s top freshman guards will square off in tonight’s game. CSU’s Caitlin Duffy leads the league’s freshmen in scoring, while UNM’s Bryce Owens leads in steals and assists.
— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal

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