The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team may feel a little extra urgency for Saturday’s home game against Fresno State.
Panic is another matter.
Yes, the Lobos are eager to snap their first two-game losing streak of the season and put a cold-shooting night in Wyoming behind them. And no, the Lobos do not want to see their 12-game home winning streak snapped, especially by a Mountain West rival.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time for lineup changes or any major strategic shifts. The Lobos (15-3, 3-2 MWC) remain a confident bunch.
“It’s still so early in the conference season,” senior Tesha Buck said. “We don’t need to get panicky. We just need to realize we lost two games and there are a lot of areas we can improve. We’re working hard to make sure we do improve.”
Today’s matchup figures to provide a measuring stick as Fresno State (8-8, 3-2) has the personnel to attack some of UNM’s weaknesses. The Bulldogs are guard-oriented and prefer to attack the basket off the dribble, kicking the ball to 3-point shooters if the opposing defense sags to cut off dribble-penetration.
Such offenses have given the Lobos trouble, including last week’s 95-86 loss at San Jose State.
“It’s pretty simple, we have to guard the ball,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said. “We did a decent job against Wyoming but they don’t drive much. Fresno State does, so we’re about to be tested again.”
The Lobos’ defense also figures to be focused on Bulldogs guard Candice White. The junior leads the Mountain West in scoring at 18.4 points per game and is a threat to shoot from just about anywhere. White is adept at drawing fouls and is nearly automatic (70 of 72) from the free-throw line.
“She’s a really good all-around player and we have to be aware of her,” Buck said. “Hopefully, we’ll play good all-around defense. We’ve put in a lot of effort on defense this week.”
UNM was held to a season-low point total in Wednesday’s 66-55 loss at Wyoming, but the Lobos are not overly concerned about jump-starting their offense. Starters Buck, Alex Lapeyrolerie and Jaisa Nunn struggled mightily against the Cowgirls but all three average double-figure points this season.
“If we get the same quality of shots we got against Wyoming, we’ll be fine,” Bradbury said.
Buck, who entered the Wyoming game as UNM’s leading scorer (15.9 points per game) but failed to score, agreed.
“Some nights the ball goes in, some nights it doesn’t,” she said. “When it doesn’t we need to find other ways to win, attacking the basket and getting more stops. But I don’t think we’ll have many games like that when three of us are off. We just need to put that one in the rearview.”
Wyoming and UNLV lead the Mountain West race with 3-1 records, while UNM and Fresno State are part of a six-team logjam with two conference losses. The Lobos hope back-to-back home games (UNM faces UNLV on Wednesday) will help them trend back toward the top of the standings.
New Mexico leads the series against Fresno State 11-10 and won both meetings last season. The Bulldogs hold a 6-4 advantage since they joined the Mountain West in 2012-13.
Saturday: Women: Fresno State at UNM
2 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM