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Women’s basketball: 8-0 UNM looks to sweep rival NMSU

LAS CRUCES — What sounds better on the Saturday brunch menu: strawberry pancackes or a rivalry win?

The New Mexico Lobos and New Mexico State Aggies would undoubtedly order the latter for today’s 11 a.m. women’s basketball matchup at the Pan American Center. Problem is, there’s not enough victories to go around.

UNM, which won game one of the annual series last month in Albuquerque, will try to get greedy and extend its sizzling 8-0 start today. The Lobos can match the best start in program history with a win, equaling the 9-0 mark established by UNM’s 1996-97 squad.

But that will require winning in Las Cruces, something none of the current Lobos has done. New Mexico’s last win here came in 2012.

“I think we need to focus on what we’ve been doing this season,” senior Cherise Beynon said. “It would be great to finally win here and great to tie the best start, but we can think about that if it happens. New Mexico State always plays well here. That’s enough to think about.”

The Lobos spent Friday preparing for NMSU after a short morning bus ride from El Paso. UNM practiced at the Pan Am Center in the morning to help prepare for today’s early start. Lobos coach Mike Bradbury doesn’t mind the unusual tip time, necessitated by New Mexico’s State’s 2:30 p.m. home football game against South Alabama.

“It was either play at 11 or start at 7:30 or 8 p.m.,” Bradbury said. “Both sides agreed to do it early. We practice around noon every day, so starting in the morning’s no problem. We’ll get up, get after it and get home.”

Bradbury expects a game similar to the one that UNM won 86-75 in Albuquerque on Nov. 18. Both teams have since had plenty of time to improve their attacks.

“I don’t know that you change very much,” he said. “You just try to do things better. We didn’t do a good job defensively in the second half, so that’s where it starts for us. I’m sure (the Aggies) will try to get off to a better start playing at home.”

UNM raced to a 32-14 lead in the first meeting and was up 50-27 early in the second half. NMSU trimmed the deficit to seven points in the fourth quarter but was unable to contain Beynon (27 points, nine assists) or complete the comeback.

NMSU’s defense will likely focus on Beynon today, just as UNM’s will revolve around stopping high-scoring Aggie Brooke Salas. The two guards lead their teams in scoring at 16.4 and 16.3 points per game, respectively.

But Beynon expects to be refreshed and energized for the morning showdown after spending most of Thursday’s 59-35 win at UTEP on the bench. Beynon spent the night in foul trouble, scoring 11 points in just 12 minutes of action.

“Oh, I’ll have lots of energy (today),” she said with a smile. “I spent a lot of time resting at UTEP, too much time. I’ll be ready to run.”