Women's Basketball: Reus enjoying her sixth-person role for UNM - Albuquerque Journal

Women’s Basketball: Reus enjoying her sixth-person role for UNM

Paula Reus doesn’t mind being the sixth wheel on the University of New Mexico women’s basketball express.

After all, it’s not a bad gig.

On a team with five senior starters, all of whom are averaging more than 11 points per game, Reus has managed to fly somewhat under the radar through the first 20 games of her freshman season. The 6-foot-1 freshman from Spain has used the time to acclimate in more ways than one.

Most apparent, Reus has gotten comfortable on the court. In early games this season, she appeared nervous at times and struggled to hit the same open shots that were nearly automatic for her at practice. Through her first nine collegiate games, Reus averaged fewer than four points per game.

Fast forward to Mountain West play and Reus is becoming a force for the red-hot Lobos (16-4, 7-0 Mountain West), who host San Jose State on Monday for a 5:30 p.m. contest. Since breaking out with a 15-point game against nationally ranked Arizona, Reus has been a steady contributor on both ends of the floor for UNM.

In conference play, she’s averaging 10 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and those numbers are rising fast. She set a season high with 17 points Jan. 15 at Colorado State, then bested it with 19 points in Saturday’s 80-74 home win over Fresno State.

Lobos coach Mike Bradbury is not surprised. In fact, he’s been expecting Reus to make this type of impact for quite some time.

“This is what Paula can do every night,” he said after Saturday’s win. “It’s really like we have six starters. Her minutes are usually right up there with (starting posts Antonia Anderson and Shaiquel McGruder) and we’re comfortable having her out there in any situation.”

Reus was all smiles after the game, making her first appearance at a full media conference this season.

“Today feels amazing,” she said. “I’m getting more confident and trusting my shots. At the beginning of the season I was pretty nervous, but now I’m kind of the sixth-person and I feel more comfortable. It always feels good to win.”

Reus has become an instant hit with UNM’s fans, bringing considerable flair when she enters a game. She’s hitting a solid 34% from 3-point range but is equally adept driving to the basket, where she can finish with either hand. Reus also ranks third on the team with 39 assists, including a few dazzling passes to set up her teammates for easy scores.

“She’s the best passer on the team,” Bradbury said.

Reus’s emergence has been significant in the Lobos’ eight-game winning streak and she figures to play a key role as UNM battles for a second straight Mountain West regular-season title. She’s also in a better position to enjoy it.

Having never set foot in the United States prior to August, Reus was understandably self-conscious during her first media interviews. She often apologized for her then-infrequently used English.

Not any more.

Asked about her reaction to Saturday’s raucous Pit fans, Reus was comfortable trotting out a few recently learned phrases.

“It was great,” she said of the noisy home crowd. “It was like endless hype. All of us felt the hype.”

Reus grinned when asked about the term and credited her teammates for adding to her English vocabulary. “All of them,” she said, “everybody says hype.”

NOTE: Monday’s game tips at 5:30 p.m. It is “Family Night,” with students up to eighth grade admitted free.

*

Monday

Women: San Jose State at UNM, 5:30 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM, themw.com.

UNM’s Paula Reus, right, shoots over Fresno State’s Aimee Book during Saturday’s game at the Pit. Reus scored a season-best 19 points. (Mike Sandoval for the Journal)
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