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UNM hopes to be in the ‘pink’ tonight

Is there really such thing as a lucky color?

Members of the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team want to believe – and they’re hoping the fortune-changing color is pink.

The Lobos, who undoubtedly could use a change of luck, will sport pink-and-white uniforms for tonight’s home contest against UNLV. It’s the Lobos’ annual “Pink Game” to raise funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer.

Fans wearing pink to the Pit will be admitted for $2 and receive complimentary strawberry milk as they exit.

Proceeds from the game will benefit the UNM Hospital Cancer Center and the Kay Yow Foundation. The latter is named after the former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach, who famously battled breast cancer for years before finally succumbing to the disease.

UNM's Sara Halasz (20) says she and her teammates need to play angry tonight against UNLV. (Journal File)

UNM’s Sara Halasz (20) says she and her teammates need to play angry tonight against UNLV. (Journal File)

It’s a cause near and dear to the Lobos’ hearts as the mothers of sophomore Alexa Chavez and freshman Josie Greenwood have battled cancer.

“It’s a really big deal to us,” sophomore Khadijah Shumpert said. “We’ve talked this week about playing for something bigger than ourselves. That should be easy (tonight).”

The Lobos (8-15, 3-9 Mountain West) also have talked about using emotion to change a recent run of painfully bad luck. They’ve lost eight of nine, including six defeats by six points or fewer.

Particularly frustrating were last week’s games, an overtime loss to Boise State and a 75-73 defeat at Nevada that came down to the final seconds.

Lobos coach Yvonne Sanchez conceded the Nevada game hit her team particularly hard, but neither frustration nor resignation was evident at Tuesday’s practice.

“I know how hard this stretch has been on us as a staff,” Sanchez said, “but it’s hard on the kids, too, because they care. We were upset after the Nevada game, but at practice we’re staying positive, staying together and identifying things we can do better at the end of games. That’s the only way out of this.”

But according to Shumpert and senior Sara Halasz, upbeat emotions might not be evident tonight.

“We’ve got to come out and play angry,” Halasz said. “Things haven’t gone our way, so we need to fight more. It’s time to play for the ‘New Mexico’ on the front of our jerseys.”

UNLV played with the greater emotion in its 78-56 win over UNM last month in Las Vegas. The Rebels undoubtedly were still smarting from being ousted from the 2012 and 2013 MWC tournaments by New Mexico.

Coach Kathy Olivier’s Rebels (10-14, 7-5) are arguably one of the league’s most talented squads, but they’ve been erratic and have struggled away from home. Still, UNLV will be looking for a fifth straight win at the Pit.

“Our last game against UNLV was probably the worst one we’ve played in conference,” Sanchez said. “We feel like we’re a better team now. We need to come out and show it.”

NOTES: Freshman post Kianna Keller suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament in her knee against Boise State. She’s expected to miss three more weeks but will not require surgery. … UNM will raffle off gift baskets and the players’ pink jerseys tonight. The Lobos hope to raise $2,014 as part of the 2014 Play4Kay Challenge. UNM had raised $1,345 coming into the week.

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