LAS CRUCES – The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team has a Sunday contingency plan in place.
All things being equal, coach Mike Bradbury would rather not use it.
Coming off a 77-58 home win over rival New Mexico State on Friday night, the Lobos (7-3) spent Saturday morning preparing for a quick rematch in Las Cruces. The Aggies (3-3) will try to earn a split at the Pan American Center, where they are 3-0 this season.
UNM played the second half of Friday’s game without senior point guard LaTora Duff, who was effectively knocked out by an inadvertent elbow to the nose late in the second quarter. Duff spent the second half on the bench holding an ice pack to her face with towel draped over her head.
Duff was still being evaluated Saturday afternoon, but Bradbury said her prognosis looked more encouraging than it did Friday night.
“I’d call Tora a game-time decision,” Bradbury said. “She may still be ruled out, but there’s at least some optimism. She feels a lot better than she did (Friday) night, so that’s good news regardless of whether she plays (Sunday).”
As of Saturday, the Lobos were preparing to play without Duff. The contingency plan would move freshman Viané Cumber into the starting lineup, Bradbury said, with senior Jaedyn De La Cerda handling point-guard duties as she did during Friday’s second half.
De La Cerda, who is typically a shooting guard, did an effective job running the show for UNM. The Lobos slowed their usual transition attack after a 45-point first half but did enough to keep the Aggies at arm’s length.
Wing Antonia Anderson and guards LaTascya Duff, Aniyah Augmon and Cumber helped with perimeter ball-handling against NMSU’s defensive pressure, but Bradbury said UNM’s half-court offense does not change significantly with De La Cerda at the point.
LaTascya Duff said she simply looks to help De La Cerda as needed.
“I feel like I play better off the ball,” she said, “but I can come get it if I need to. We all just have to step up and do what’s necessary.”
Other than LaTora Duff’s injury, the Lobos have managed to remain largely healthy during a busy stretch of non-conference games. UNM has played 10 games in 25 days, which Bradbury admits has come with a cost in bumps and bruises.
“We’ve got some fatigue and people limping around a little bit,” he said, “but they’re ready to go. Our schedule eases up a little after (Sunday), so we’ll push through.”
After Sunday’s game, UNM plays just twice (Dec. 12 at Arizona and Dec. 19 at home versus UTEP) before its Mountain West opener against San Jose State on Dec. 28.
COUNTING 3s: New Mexico State’s hopes to split the two-game series with UNM may depend on a bettter performance from 3-point range. While UNM made a season-best 13 3s (13-for-24), the Aggies did not make one until Fama Thiam’s trey with 2:44 left in the fourth quarter. NMSU finished 1-for-9 from behind the arc.
PATIENT APPROACH: NMSU outscored UNM 40-26 in the paint Friday with post Bigue Sarr getting most of her 21 points from close range. The Aggies also had a 14-6 edge in second-chance points but could not begin to match the Lobos in transition. UNM racked up a 25-0 advantage in fast-break points.