Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the fun …
The Duff and Cavinder sisters have undoubtedly heard them all repeatedly.
College basketball players and twin sisters on rival Mountain West teams, the four prolific standouts will square off Saturday at the Pit when Fresno State visits the University of New Mexico. FSU’s Haley and Hanna Cavinder and UNM’s LaTascya and LaTora Duff figure to play major roles in a contest between teams picked to finish first and second, respectively, in this season’s conference race.
The similarities between the Duffs and Cavinders are certainly evident.
UNM’s senior twin guards are 5-foot-7, while Fresno’s junior guards stand 5-6. All four players have their names splashed prominently among the Mountain West and national individual leaders in scoring, 3-point shooting, assists, steals and – in Haley Cavinder’s case – rebounds.
The Duffs and Cavinders have met before, squaring off three times last season with Fresno State winning twice. But Saturday’s meeting will be the first played out at the Pit. If nothing else, it figures to provide an interesting subplot.
“The Cavinders are outstanding,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said. “They’ve been all-conference players since they first stepped on Fresno State’s campus. We obviously love the way our twins play, too, and they do have similar skill sets – shooting 3s and putting the ball on the floor. You can’t help but notice that.”
LaTascya and LaTora Duff shared a knowing glance when asked about facing the Cavinders. The questions were not unexpected.
“Obviously the Cavinder twins are really good,” LaTora said. “We saw them last year and it was a learning experience for us. That’s really how it is against all the conference teams, though. This year I think we’re more prepared for how the top teams and the top players attack us.”
UNM’s success this season seems to back that assessment. The Lobos (15-4, 6-0) have won seven straight games, are unbeaten at home (9-0) and are off to their best start ever in conference play – Mountain West and UNM’s previous leagues included.
The Duffs have been key contributors, but both were quick to credit their teammates.
“We have a lot of different weapons,” LaTascya said. “If you take one away, somebody else steps up. We just have to be prepared and follow the game plan.”
It’s been an effective strategy. All five UNM starters average more than 10 points per game and all have proven capable of going off for 20 or more.
The Cavinder twins, meanwhile, have been doing more than ever for the Bulldogs (7-9, 3-2). Haley posted her second triple-double of the season last week in a win over San Jose State (17 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists) and was named MWC player of the week.
Haley and Hanna have not missed a beat on the court despite becoming national poster girls for recently enacted NCAA rules changes regarding Name, Image and Likeness endorsements.
The Fresno Bee this week reported that the Cavinders will make “close to seven figures” this year through business endorsements. The figure includes a recent deal with Baseline Team, a new clothing company whose deal with the twins includes a 25% ownership stake.
The Duffs said they have not yet pursued any NIL opportunities but did not rule out the possibility.
“We could,” LaTora said, “but I don’t even want to think about that right now. We’ve got enough going on.”
Saturday’s to-do list starts with trying to keep UNM’s various winning streaks intact against a Fresno State team than knocked the Lobos out in last season’s MWC tournament semifinals. Twins-vs.-twins subplots, the Duffs said, will not be on their minds.
“Fresno State has other good players,” LaTora said, “and so do we. Winning the game is the important thing, that’s how we’re looking at it.”