California brunch, anyone?
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team will find out if early West Coast action is to its liking with a noon tip Wednesday at San Jose State. The Lobos play another midweek matinee next week at San Diego State.
Wednesday’s early start figures to add atmosphere, with busloads of elementary school students filling normally empty seats. Despite what has thus far been a remarkably successful season, the Spartans rank last in Mountain West attendance, averaging just 339 fans per home game.
The Lobos, far and away the conference leaders in home attendance, don’t mind playing in front of a noisy school-day crowd. They’re more concerned about battling a hot SJSU team that has won three straight and is playing with considerable confidence. The Spartans (12-6, 6-1) handed the Lobos (11-9, 2-5) a painful 81-80 defeat earlier this month in Albuquerque.
“They haven’t changed since then,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said of the Spartans. “They play really fast and they have a lot of people who can score. Defending them is definitely a challenge.”
UNM was largely up to the task in the teams’ first meeting this season, forcing 21 turnovers that led directly to 31 Lobo points. UNM also outrebounded the Spartans and outscored them 36-22 in the paint.
But then there was the third quarter.
Taking advantage of New Mexico breakdowns on both ends of the court, SJSU racked up 35 points in the third quarter and turned a 39-29 deficit into a 64-58 lead. The Spartans hit five of their 14 3-pointers in the quarter.
“That third quarter was awful,” senior Aisia Robertson said. “We didn’t come out with any fire and San Jose State turned the whole game around. That can’t happen again.”
Robertson, who is from San Francisco, is looking forward to playing what amounts to a home game. She has battled to find consistent form since returning from ACL surgery in late November.
There have been encouraging signs of late. Robertson scored a season-high 25 points in last week’s 73-62 win over Colorado State, but she and the rest of her teammates struggled mightily to score Saturday in a 68-51 loss to UNLV. The Lobos shot 26.7% from the field with Robertson finishing 1 for 13.
The Lobos will have to shoot significantly better if they are to prevent San Jose State from completing a season sweep. Bradbury hopes his team can generate some easy points with aggressive defense, something it largely failed to do against UNLV.
“We’ll probably mix things up defensively,” Bradbury said, “try to keep (the Spartans) off balance. I thought our zone affected them a little bit last time and we’ve added some adjustments. The big thing for us is just to play really hard for all four quarters this time. San Jose State is too good for us to take a quarter off.”
Antonia Anderson had a career-high 23 points against San Jose State in the teams’ first meeting this season. Jordan Hosey added a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Hosey will face an interesting head-to-head matchup against SJSU’s Tyra Whitehead, the Mountain West’s leading rebounder. Hosey helped limit Whitehead to three points and nine rebounds in the first meeting.