Pick your poison.
That’s the dilemma for opponents preparing to face the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team this season and it’s not an easy choice.
After Antonia Anderson’s 30-point outburst in Saturday’s 85-74 victory at Colorado State, all five Lobos starters are averaging more than 10 points per game. All have posted season-high games of at least 24 points and all five have drained at least three 3-pointers in a game this season.
CSU coach Ryun Williams opted to overplay UNM guards Jaedyn De La Cerda and twin sisters LaTascya and LaTora Duff – a sensible strategy considering they’ve combined for 135 made 3-pointers this season. LaTascya (52 made 3s), De La Cerda (44) and LaTora (39) rank 1-2-3 individually in the Mountain West. UNM (15-4, 6-0) leads the league heading into Saturday’s home game vs. Fresno State.
Still, Williams’ plan didn’t exactly work out. Posts Anderson, Shaiquel McGruder and Paula Reus torched the Rams for 61 points and 14 3s. After the game, Williams told csurams.com that his defensive scheme was a matter of playing the analytics and the odds.
“Reus, McGruder and Anderson had to beat us,” he said, “and they did.”
UNM’s multi-faceted offense has been difficult for anyone to stop of late. The Lobos average 81 points per game in conference play and are launching 3s at a dizzying rate (31.3 attempts and 12.7 makes per game).
Only Fresno State has hit a better percentage in conference play. The Bulldogs have hit 41.8% to UNM’s 40.4%, but FSU has half as many attempts.
Lobos coach Mike Bradbury paused when asked if he’d coached a team with five double-digit scorers prior to this season.
“I’d have to look it up, but I doubt it,” he said. “This team has multiple players who can carry us at any given time, and they share the ball well. That’s a tough thing to defend.”
UNM ranks among the national leaders in several offensive categories, including fifth in assists (319), 10th in 3-point percentage and second in 3-point attempts (511) and makes (197). National 3-point leader Florida Gulf Coast has more attempts (599) but has just three more makes (200) than New Mexico.
Bradbury said he pays little attention to national statistics, but he’s not surprised that UNM ranks among the 3-point leaders. He constantly encourages his players, guards and posts, to pull the trigger.
“Some of our players have better numbers than others, but they can all make 3s,” he said. “I want us to take whatever shot is open. Just step up and shoot it with confidence.”
Anderson did just that on Saturday, going 8-for-20 from 3-point range. She had not taken more than four 3-point shots in a prior game this season, and her 20 attempts broke a single-game program record.
“It was kind of crazy,” Anderson said. “We always shoot a lot of 3s at practice, but I never thought I’d shoot that many in a game.”
High-octane offense and 3-point shooting have sparked UNM on its current seven-game winning streak, but Bradbury knows Mountain West foes will come up with different schemes to slow his team down in the coming weeks.
“Three of our conference wins were one-possession games in the last minute,” he said. “We’ve done a good job reacting to what people have thrown at us so far, but the top half of our league is really good. We’ve got some major challenges coming up.”