Duff twins to return for Lobo women vs. new Division I opponent - Albuquerque Journal

Duff twins to return for Lobo women vs. new Division I opponent

There’s no need to throw out the history involving the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team and Saturday’s opponent.

There is no history.

The Lobos will visit northeast Texas for a road game at Texas A&M Commerce — a first-year Division I opponent that has faced Eastern New Mexico 69 times but has never faced UNM or New Mexico State.

The Lions (1-3) are still getting accustomed to the top level of women’s college basketball, and they’re getting a crash course against quality opponents. Commerce, which will play in the Southland Conference this season, dropped competitive road games at Houston, SMU and UT Arlington before returning home to face UNM.

But the Lions under ninth-year coach Jason Burton do not need any primers on winning. They’ve been consistent Division II national contenders and have the tools necessary to be in the mix once Southland competition begins.

“Really good athletes at every position,” Lobos coach Mike Bradbury said of the Lions. “They can shoot 3s effectively, their post (Laila Lawrence) is a load, and their point guard (Dyani Robinson) is big-time. We’ll have our hands full with her — just like everyone else they’ve played.”

Robinson, a 5-foot-7 junior who averages 17.3 points per game, was a first-team Division II All-American last season and has already picked up a Southland Conference Player of the Week honor.

UNM’s hopes of containing Robinson improved Friday when senior guards LaTora and LaTascya Duff rejoined the Lobos after missing a game due to a death in their family.

“They do make a difference,” Bradbury said, “in a lot of what we do.”

Commerce and UNM have similar styles in some respects as both count on half-court defensive pressure to force turnovers and create transition opportunities. Neither team is blessed with much height and both have had problems securing defensive rebounds.

“We have to rebound better,” Bradbury said. “Honestly, our defense has been fine. We’ve forced a lot of bad shots, but we’ve got to finish it with a rebound. If you give up second and third chances, all that work on defense doesn’t accomplish anything.”

The Lobos (2-3) have been hot and cold on the offensive end so far this season, but they’re coming off back-to-back solid performances against Arizona State and Western New Mexico. With the Duffs unavailable against WNMU, reserves Viané Cumber and Nia Johnson combined for 40 points.

“Some shots finally started falling,” said Cumber, who hit 6-of-8 from 3-point range. “I don’t know if I’ve hit six (3s) before, but if I have it’s been a long time. Hopefully it’s the start of something.”

Bradbury hopes Saturday’s game will be the start of some road road success for the Lobos, who dropped their first two road games this season at Southern Utah and New Mexico State.

The Lobos stayed in Albuquerque to celebrate Thanksgiving, practicing in the morning before breaking for holiday meals. But Friday started with UNM’s first excursion to Commerce, a flight to Dallas followed by an hour’s bus ride to the university campus.

The road trip continues Tuesday when UNM visits Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana — another venue the Lobos have never visited. Both Commerce and Nicholls State will play return games at the Pit next season.

SATURDAY: New Mexico at Texas A&M Commerce, 1 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM, ESPN+ streaming

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