The Lobos already knew they’d be facing Utah State tonight without starting guard Alex Lapeyrolerie. Tuesday they learned Lapeyrolerie is out for the rest of the season because of a torn left ACL suffered in Saturday’s 57-49 victory over Air Force.
Lapeyrolerie, a 5-foot-11 senior, started all 26 of UNM’s games this season, averaging 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists. She underwent an MRI on Monday night.
“It’s terrible,” Lobo coach Mike Bradbury said. “Alex is a great kid and she was having a great year. I know she’ll come back strong from this, but we’re all pretty disappointed about it right now.”
From a strict basketball perspective, the timing of Lapeyrolerie’s injury could have been worse. After tonight’s game at Utah State (5-19, 3-10 Mountain West), the Lobos (19-7, 7-6) will have a week between games to make any adjustments Bradbury deems appropriate.
But for tonight, UNM will simply try to pull together and get a much-needed road win. The Lobos have dropped their last five road contests, and senior Tesha Buck thinks defense and physical play are the keys to stopping that skid.
“When we rise to the occasion and play physical, that’s when we’re at our best,” Buck said. “I feel like we’ve gotten better on defense lately and it’s kept us in every game. We just need to make a few more stops and we’ll start winning these road games.”
The Lobos clamped down on the Aggies two weeks ago in Albuquerque, limiting them to 18 first-half points and rolling to an 80-47 victory. Bradbury wants to see more of the same tonight.
“Slowing down (Rachel) Brewster and keeping (point guard Eliza) West in front of us are the biggest things,” Bradbury said. “We did a good job on them the first time, but we can’t afford to let those two go off.”
UNM’s schedule gets considerably tougher after tonight’s game. The Lobos’ final four regular-season games are against the top four teams in the Mountain West standings — Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado State and Fresno State.
That difficult stretch could allow UNM to improve its seeding position for the upcoming conference tournament, but a loss tonight could derail those hopes. The Lobos are in sixth place, two games behind Fresno State and Boise State.
“We need to win this game,” Bradbury said. “I felt the same way about Saturday’s game against Air Force. It doesn’t matter where it’s being played, we need to find a way to get this one.”