ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — UNM’s Alexa Chavez enjoyed modeling her new bright pink women’s basketball jersey Friday.
Even practicing in her remarkably loud pink Nike basketball shoes was fun.
Still, today’s Play4Kay/Think Pink Breast Cancer Awareness game against UNLV at the Pit is about more than a color scheme to the Lobo freshman.
Chavez, a Santa Fe native, has watched her mother, Patrice, battle the disease and knows how it can have an impact on a family.
“My mom was diagnosed about five years ago,” Chavez said, “and it really hit home hard. Just dealing with her being sick was so emotional. It never really leaves your thoughts.”
Patrice Chavez is a cancer survivor but remains on medication that Alexa says takes a toll. Nonetheless, Patrice attends all of her daughter’s games, and Alexa will be proud to return some of that support today.
“It’s amazing that, as a team, we can help bring the community together and support such a good cause,” Alexa said. “I’ve really been looking forward to this game. I didn’t like pink until my mom got sick. Now it’s my favorite color.”
As it turns out, today’s game is significant above and beyond the promotional level. The Lobos (12-9, 4-4 Mountain West) and Rebels (8-14, 4-4) are tied in the league standings and need a win to get a jump-start in the race’s second half.
“I think you’ll see two strongly motivated teams,” UNM coach Yvonne Sanchez said.
The Lobos come in on a two-game winning streak but still smarting a bit from a 68-57 defeat they absorbed last month at the Rebels’ hands.
UNM rallied to lead that game 57-56 in the closing minutes but was outscored 12-0 down the stretch, committing two of its 27 turnovers in that span. The Rebels, meanwhile, put the game away by hitting 10 straight free throws.
“Well, I’d say we know what not to do this time,” sophomore Antiesha Brown said. “UNLV’s really quick and aggressive, so it’s up to us to execute and try to get them flustered.”
Brown is coming off a career-best 26-point outing in UNM’s 72-67 win at Air Force on Wednesday. She laughed when asked whether Pit fans should expect more of the same.
“I can’t tell Lobo fans I’ll go for 20 every night,” Brown said. “They can expect me to always play hard.”
Such has also been true of the Rebels, who have persevered through several key injuries this season. The latest, a season-ending knee injury to forward Alana Cesarz, has caused UNLV coach Kathy Olivier to adjust on the fly.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Sanchez said. “Their other posts have stepped up, and (senior guard) Kelli Thompson has been playing extremely well. They haven’t let the injuries hold them back.”
Thompson scored 21 points in Las Vegas against UNM, including 9-for-10 at the foul line.
“We definitely have to keep her in front of us,” Lobo Sara Halasz said.
THINK PINK NOTES: The Lobos usually wear white jerseys with pink lettering for Think Pink games but received the opposite this year. As a result, UNLV agreed to wear black uniforms today instead of red.
All fans wearing pink to today’s game will be admitted for $4. Pink foam fingers will be distributed to the first 3,000 fans to arrive, and Creamland will provide free strawberry-flavored milk to fans as they exit the Pit.
UNM also will raise money for the Kay Yow Foundation and UNM Cancer Center by auctioning off pink jerseys, signed posters and gift baskets of Lobo gear. The auction will be on the Pit’s north concourse. Donation boxes also will be available.
New Mexico breast cancer survivors will be recognized at halftime.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal