That’s the latest and final stop on the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team’s tour of the Southland. The Lobos, who have traveled through Dallas, Commerce, Texas, and New Orleans since Thanksgiving, will take on Nicholls State in Thibodaux before heading back to Albuquerque for a three-game homestand.
It’s been an interesting excursion for coach Mike Bradbury and his team, which had not previously visited either of this week’s Southland Conference opponents. Game one ended with the Lobos rallying late to pull out an 78-71 victory Saturday over Texas A&M Commerce. Bradbury said he won’t be surprised if Tuesday’s game follows a similar pattern.
“Nicholls State is really good offensively,” Bradbury said Monday, “and they play well at home. It’ll probably be another game that we have to win at the end. Hopefully we’ll be up to the task.”
Late drama has been par for the course for UNM (3-3) thus far this season. With the exception of a blowout win over Division II Western New Mexico, all of the Lobos’ games have been within a six-point margin in the final two minutes with two of them going to overtime.
Bradbury undoubtedly would prefer to see his club take a more comfortable lead into the closing minutes against the Colonels (3-4), but he acknowledges these Lobos are still a work in progress. With numerous players filling new or expanded roles and the Lobos still working the kinks out of a new motion-oriented offense, consistency has yet to arrive.
“We’re getting there,” Bradbury said. “Our execution has gotten better every game but we’ve still got a long way to go. That’s what the pre-conference season is about. We want to have things running smoothly in January more so than now.”
There have been positive signs. Wings Paula Reus and Viané Cumber have begun to find a rhythm after both got off to slow starts. Reus and Cumber combined for 33 points and seven made 3-pointers in Saturday’s victory.
UNM has not been lighting it up from 3-point range as it did for most of last season (28.7% accuracy through six games), but the Lobos have been more effective attacking the basket and scoring from mid-range, which offers a plan B when 3-pointers are not falling.
On the other hand, UNM has thus far been vulnerable in the paint, getting outrebounded by an average of 10 per game. The Lobos are not a tall team but they will need to do a better job battling inside, particularly against post-oriented opponents.
Nicholls State does not necessarily meet that description, but the Colonels do have a 6-foot-4 post in junior Kate Manley.
“She’s been solid against everyone else but she’ll probably play like Bill Walton against us,” Bradbury joked. “We’ve just got to find a way to hold our own inside. I like the way we’re playing defense, we just have to stop giving up second ahd third opportunities.”
The Lobos, who practiced at Tulane University on Sunday before taking a bus from New Orleans to Thibodaux (a 60-mile drive), hope to continue building momentum at Nicholls State.
They figure to need it. UNM returns home to face No. 14 Arizona on Sunday afternoon.