Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos Slap Down Air Force in The Pit 67-44

Jan. 31, 2012

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New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit

Tuesday: New Mexico Lobos 67, Air Force Falcons 44
Saturday: 2 p.m., Boise State at New Mexico - The Pit

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The 67-44 slap down Tuesday night by New Mexico clearly separated the Lobos from the offensively-challenged Air Force Falcons.

The question now is can the Lobos use the second half of the Mountain West race to catch up to the four-team pack above them that is chasing the front-running San Diego State Aztecs and UNLV Rebels.

The battle for possession of the Mountain West cellar was really no battle as New Mexico rolled to a 37-18 halftime lead and charged to the Lobos' first league win of the year in front of a Pit crowd of 6,594.

The outcome of Tuesday's clash between two teams that came into the game with 0-6 league marks really was a formality. The Lobos have been struck hard by injury this season, but are clearly a better team than Air Force.

Now, they have the second half of the MW race to try and catch up with the league teams hovering above them.

"We have been in every game aside from the San Diego State game," said Sanchez. "Our goal is to win every game and protect the home court. You want to build some momentum for the conference tournament.

"We will concentrate on the little things and the little things will make the great things happen."

The Lobos won a lot of the individual statistical battles Tuesday which helped them roll to the convincing 23-point romp. UNM had three Lobos in double figures behind Jayme Jackson (13), Porche Torrance (13) and Caroline Durbin (11). The Lobos also:

  • Outshot Air Force 38.7 percent to 32.6 percent.
  • Won the rebound battle 42-26.
  • Had only seven turnovers to 19 for the Falcons.
  • Won the points off turnover battle 15-6.
  • Won the points off the bench battle 20-2.

    "Terrific," Sanchez said of the play of her substitutes. "All of them played well and all of them contributed. Everyone had fun.

    "This win was for our fans. The fans deserve this. This also was for my staff and for the kids. I'm really proud of them."

    Emily Stark was the top scorer off the UNM bench with seven points. Lauren Taylor, Ashley Rhoades and Jourdan Erskine each had four points. Erskine and Rhoades each had six rebounds. Torrance led all rebounders with seven. Torrance and Jackson each had five assists. UNM won that assist battle 19-to-6.

    "We ran our press almost the entire game because I felt we had to get energy early," said Sanchez. "The other part of our game plan was to get the ball inside. We did a great job of post feeds and our posts did a good job of posting up or getting the ball back out and posting up again.

    "I didn't want to play zone today. I didn't want to give them any open looks."

    The Lobos' goals for the second half of the MW race are obvious: Get better and beat a few teams besides Air Force. The Lobos get their first shot when Boise State invades The Pit on Saturday.

    "Boise State is a very good team," said Sanchez. "It's time for the second half and we want to do well."

    The Lobos came out of the half up 37-18 and cruised to the easy win. UNM was up 58-31 with 8:45 to play and Sanchez already had gone deep into her bench.

    First Half: New Mexico 37, Air Force 18

    Maybe the best defense for the Lobos in the first half was to simply let the Falcons shoot. When the Falcons weren't turning the ball over, they were throwing up bricks. Air Force shot 25 percent in the first half, scoring only six goals and none from long range. The Lobos shot 37.5 percent.

    Coach Sanchez threw nine Lobos at the Falcons in the first half and all nine scored at least two points paced by Torrance with nine and Durbin with eight. The Lobos had been damaged by turnovers in their first six Mountain West games, but won that first-half battle 11-to-3. UNM had nine points off turnovers and outscored Air Force off the bench, 8-0.

    The Lobos had twice as many field goals as Air Force, 12-to-6, and outscored the Falcons at the free throw line 11-6. The Lobos won the assist battle 9-to-1 and had seven steals to one for the visitors from Colorado Springs.

    The Lobos' first bucket was a second-chance opportunity and a 3-point baseline shot by Durbin. The Lobos stretched that 3-0 lead to 7-2 when Torrance got position inside, flipped in a layup and added a free throw. At the 15:36 mark, Air Force had pulled to 7-6.

    The Lobos then rolled out a nice stretch of basketball aided by the offensively-challenged Falcons. Jackson hit a long jumper to push UNM up 9-6. Erskine rattled in a jumper in the paint to give UNM a 12-7 lead. Jackson then split two Falcons on a drive for a floating layup that gave UNM a 14-7 lead at the 11:01 mark.

    At the 7:59 media break, UNM was up 17-9. The Lobos weren't exactly smoking the nets shooting 31.6 percent, but Air Force had only two field goals shooting 22.2 percent. Air Force had seven turnovers at that point to one for the Lobos.

    At the 3:57 media break, Durbin, Nelson and Rhoades had scored to help UNM into a 26-13 cushion. The Lobos continued to roll. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Jackson built UNM's lead to 37-16. UNM settled for the 37-18 halftime count.