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Cardinal to bring spotlight, No. 1 ranking to the Pit

Ready or not, the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team will get a moment in the national spotlight next week.

For the first time in program history, the Lobos will take on a team ranked No. 1 nationally when they face Stanford on Monday at the Pit. The Cardinal ascended to the top of the USA Today Coaches Poll on Tuesday, a day after snapping UConn’s 47-game winning streak. (Stanford is No. 6 in the Associated Press Poll, which was released Monday morning.)

Facing a top-ranked opponent is a mixed blessing for the 0-3 Lobos, who were still licking their wounds from a rough, season-opening trip to DePaul’s Maggie Dixon Classic. UNM dropped a 61-59 heartbreaker to Texas-Pan American, lost a hard-fought battle with No. 5 Texas A&M and was blown out in the second half by No. 18 DePaul.

Next up, what now appears to be an even stiffer test.

“That wasn’t my thought when I scheduled them home-and-home,” Lobo coach Yvonne Sanchez said, “but Stanford always has the potential to be No. 1. (Cardinal coach Tara VanDeerveer) just has an outstanding, amazingly consistent program.”

The highest-ranked foe UNM has faced to date was No. 3 Texas A&M in 2008-09, but the current Lobos knew they may be facing a No. 1 team after watching Monday UConn-Stanford game.

“It was a nail-biter but Stanford’s players stepped up,” Lobo point guard Bryce Owens said. “They’re a great team but it’s exciting that we get to play them in New Mexico. We’re not going to back down.”

UNM returned to practice Tuesday after breaking down video of its first three games.

“The good news was we got a chance to play three really good teams,” Owens said. “The bad news is we’re 0-3 and have a lot of things to clean up.”

First on that list is turnovers, second is fouls. The Lobos effectively cost themselves opportunities to win one if not two games in Chicago by failing to take care of the ball and committing cheap touch fouls.

UNM averaged 28 turnovers in the games and sent their opponents to the foul line a combined 87 times.

That meant running and lots of it Tuesday – perhaps with more to come.

“We’re going to start calling every foul at practice,” Sanchez said, “and run a sprint for every whistle. We have to keep our hands off on defense, simple as that.”

LINES SIGNED: UNM officially completed its recruiting for 2015-16 on Monday when it received a signed letter of intent from Emily Lines, a 6-foot-1 guard from Naples, Fla.

A three-time all-state selection, Lines averaged 18.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.2 blocks for First Baptist Academy last season. She has amassed more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her prep career.

“Emily is a big guard and a 3-point specialist,” Sanchez said. “She can make a difference for us right away.”

Lines joins 6-1 guard Jannon Otto from Hesperia, Calif., and 6-3 post Jaisa Nunn from Kirkland, Wash., in a recruting class that was ranked No. 1 among Mountain West Schools by three national services.