ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This close-but-no-cigar stuff is getting old.
The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team goes into today’s game at Boise State with no interest in another narrow miss. Consecutive one-point losses, the Lobos say, is at least one too many.
UNM’s painful home defeats to UNLV and Fresno State are believed to be the first consecutive one-point losses in program history.
“It drives you crazy,” senior Caroline Durbin said. “So frustrating.”
Durbin and her teammates had largely put the defeats behind them before departing for Boise on Friday. They know today’s matchup with the Broncos (10-12, 3-6 Mountain West) offers an opportunity to dash at least a few frustrations.
“This team’s done a good job shaking off tough losses,” Lobos coach Yvonne Sanchez said. “(Thursday’s) practice was really good, all things considered. All we can do is focus on getting a win at Boise State, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Odds are, the Broncos took a similar approach.
Boise State has lost four straight games and undoubtedly sees today’s game as a chance to turn things around. The Broncos also would like to avenge a 58-53 loss to UNM last month at the Pit.
Both teams are in the middle tier of the Mountain West Conference standings, so today’s outcome could impact seeding for the conference tournament come March 14. New Mexico (12-11, 4-6) can create something of a cushion over BSU by completing a season sweep.
To accomplish that, UNM needs to carry over the strong defense it played against Fresno State while fixing the offensive issues that arose in that contest.
“I thought our defense did a great job scrambling against a good offense,” Sanchez said. “If we do the same thing at Boise, I like our chances.”
Job one is to limit Broncos standout forward Lauren Lenhardt, who averages 15 points per game. Job two is making life difficult for point guard Diana Lee.
“(Lee) just does such a good running things,” Sanchez said. “We’ve got to get the ball out of her hands.”
Then there’s UNM’s offense.
On the plus side, the Lobos’ post game has steadily improved of late. Sanchez plans to continue pounding the ball inside today, she said.
Not as positive is that UNM continues to be plagued by turnover streaks. Included were 11 giveaways that helped limit the Lobos to 16 first-half points against Fresno State.
Then there are free throws.
New Mexico suffered through one of the worst nights in program history Wednesday, killing its chances at a comeback win by going 2 for 11 at the line. The Lobos rank last in MWC free-throw percentage at 57 percent.
Individually, Durbin leads the conference with 90.5-percent accuracy, but her teammates have struggled mightily.
“We do talk about it,” Durbin said, “and we practice shooting them under pressure. We’ve had some good free-throw shooting games, too, but we’ve got to be a lot more consistent.”
Sanchez remains hopeful that her team can put all the pieces together in time to make a run in the MWC tournament, but she knows it must start building momentum soon.
“I really do think we’re close,” Sanchez said.
If only close were a bit more satisfying.
— This article appeared on page D4 of the Albuquerque Journal