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Freshman plays various roles for Lobo women

UNM's  Jayda Bovero (24) reaches for the loose ball in a game against Cal Poly. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM’s Jayda Bovero (24) reaches for the loose ball in a game against Cal Poly. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Jayda Bovero doesn’t play like a typical freshman and doesn’t mind bringing the hammer.

A 5-foot-11 wing for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team, Bovero has seen her job description change of late. She started the year as part of a deep Lobo guard line, but now Bovero is part guard, part forward, part enforcer.

The freshman from Farr West, Utah, smiled at the description but said she’s happy to embrace it.

“I think it’s just my personality,” Bovero said. “Coach (Yvonne) Sanchez said she needed someone to be physical and hold their ground. I had that role in high school, too, so I thought, ‘Why not me?'”

Bovero and the Lobos (3-7) have emphasized post play in recent games to good effect, outscoring their past two opponents 78-48 in the paint. They figure to look inside early and often again today when Northern Arizona (4-6) visits the Pit for UNM’s non-conference finale.

The paint may seem an unlikely place for a 5-11 freshman, and taller Lobos such as Khadijah Shumpert, Kianna Keller and Alexa Chavez spend more time there than does Bovero. But when attrition created an opening in New Mexico’s post rotation (Ebony Walker was dismissed and Chavez missed several games with an illness), Bovero seemed a good fit.

“Jayda doesn’t get pushed around,” Sanchez said. “She’s a kid who can score inside and out, and she’ll take any role you give her, including enforcer. We haven’t had a player like her for a while.”

Bovero showed her versatility in Thursday’s 84-68 win over Cal Poly. She played 10 minutes off the bench, spending time at 3-guard and forward, and collected seven points, two rebounds and a block.

Her contributions came at important times. Late in the first half, Bovero was fouled on a drive and again after grabbing a defensive rebound. She hit all four resulting free throws to give UNM a 37-36 lead.

Early in the second half Bovero swished an open 3-pointer to extend that gave the Lobos a 48-44 edge and sparked a 10-2 run.

“I was a post growing up,” Bovero said, “so I still have those moves. But my club coach told me I needed to be a guard, and I played everything from point guard to (power forward) in high school. I’m pretty comfortable anywhere.”

Bovero’s emergence has helped the Lobos become more versatile, which could serve them well heading into Mountain West play. Four players (Shumpert, Chavez, Bovero and Kenya Pye) registered career scoring highs against Cal Poly, which allowed UNM to overcome a quiet night from starting guards Antiesha Brown and Bryce Owens, who combined for eight points.

“Bryce and Teesh did other things to help us,” Sanchez said, “but they didn’t shoot well and the team picked them up. That hasn’t always happened the last couple years and it’s a really good sign.”

Bovero feels like UNM is starting to build chemistry after a 1-7 start that included four losses to top-20 opponents. She also believes today’s game against NAU is pivotal heading into the holidays and with Mountain West play on the horizon.

“I think it’s a statement game,” Bovero said. “We’ve won two in a row and if/when we get this one, it says New Mexico’s coming on and ready to do some damage in conference.”

NOTE: Twelve players saw action for UNM against Cal Poly and nine scored. The exceptions were point guards. Owens, Laneah Bryan and Brooke Allemand were a combined 0-for-10 shooting but contributed five assists and six rebounds.