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UNM women take aim at history

The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team has never managed a perfect 10-0 start. That could change Wednesday night.

Coach Mike Bradbury’s Lobos will shoot for a place in program history when they host 3-4 Texas Tech at Dreamstyle Arena. UNM comes in 9-0, matching the 1996-97 team for the longest winning streak to open a season.

The Lobos say they’re not focused on the record, but they’re certainly aware of it.

“We’ve heard people talking about it, ‘Nine wins in a row, wow!'” junior Jaisa Nunn said. “But the way I look at it, we’re playing a good team and we just want to win this game. It’s a nice incentive to get to 10-0 and set the school record, but we have to focus on Texas Tech, nothing else.”

Whether or not the current Lobos realize it, there are notable parallels between the 1996-97 and 2017-18 UNM seasons. The previous 9-0 start came in then-coach Don Flanagan’s second season and included a pair of wins over New Mexico State. In Bradbury’s second season, New Mexico is 9-0 with a pair of wins over the Aggies.

Lobo fans can be excused for hoping the similarities end tonight. Texas Tech snapped UNM’s 1996-97 win streak with a 66-35 blowout in Lubbock. That New Mexico team finished 18-10 after a 9-0 start.

Bradbury said he’s happy with the way his current has played thus far. He has spent no time looking ahead.

“Honestly, it’s just on to the next game,” he said. “We’ve done a good job staying in the moment so far and we have to continue that. Texas Tech presents some huge challenges for us, and we have to play the right way to have a shot at them.”

The biggest challenges figure to be evident enough. Texas Tech’s front line includes 6-foot-5 Brittany Brewer, 6-4 Jayda Terry, 6-2 Brielle Blaire and 6-2 Dayo Olabode. The Lady Raiders have dominated the boards this year and can control a game’s pace by doing so.

“They’re really, really big inside,” Bradbury said, “and they absolutely kill people on the boards. Pace is going to be enormous in this one. We have to get the game going fast.”

The matchup figures to be distinctly different from last season’s 69-58 Texas Tech win in Lubbock. UNM was the taller team that day, with posts Richelle van der Keijl and Kianna Keller starting and Nunn coming off the bench.

“We’re a lot more guard-oriented now,” Nunn said, “and posting up is what they do. That’s going to be a challenge for us because we have to be physical, but we can’t afford to get in foul trouble.”

Bradbury said he’s looking forward to seeing how the contrast in styles plays out — and finding out if the Lobos have narrowed the talent gap on the Lady Raiders since last season.

“They’re obviously bigger and stronger than we are,” Bradbury said, “but I think we’re closer to their level now. We’re about to find out.”

NOTES: Bench seat tickets are being sold for $5 … Texas Tech leads the series over UNM 15-3, but the Lobos won the last meeting in the Pit in 2012 … Lobo guards Cherise Beynon and Alex Lapeyrolerie went a combined 2-for-32 from the field last season in Lubbock … Texas Tech comes in having lost three straight but to strong opponents: Texas A&M, LSU and Houston.