Stevens: Lobos Look To Pull MW Shocker at Fresno State

Jan. 11, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Women Basketball - On the Mountain West Road

Saturday: 3 p.m., New Mexico Lobos (8-6, 0-1) at Fresno State (9-5, 1-0)
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend GameTracker, Game Story, Statistics

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The first shocker of the 2013 Women's Mountain West basketball race has been delivered.

Can Yvonne Sanchez's Lobo deliver the second one?

The Lobos get their chance to do exactly that and get on the win side of the Mountain standings when New Mexico visits Fresno State at 3 p.m. (MT) Saturday in Fresno, Calif. The Lobos are looking to rebound from a 68-57 MW loss at UNLV where 27 turnovers helped push UNM (8-6) into the league cellar with a 0-1 mark.

The task at Fresno is a daunting one. The Bulldogs scored a solid shocker by going into Viejas Arena in San Diego and upsetting the San Diego State Aztecs 80-72. The Aztecs, the 2012 MW champions, were the preseason pick to win the 2013 MW title.

That score suggests that maybe the Bulldogs are the team to beat in 2013. Sure, it's early, but not too many teams are going to win in San Diego and the Bulldogs' win coupled with Wyoming's 70-68 fall at Boise State can't be ignored.

For sure, Sanchez's Lobos won't be ignoring anything about the Bulldogs, who are looking for their 18th consecutive home win when the Lobos step into the Save Mart Center. The Bulldogs haven't played at home in 35 days and should be playing with a little swagger after that win over the Aztecs.

The Lobos are trying to recapture some swagger.

New Mexico has lost three straight and six of nine. The 27 turnovers at UNLV was a sore point for the second-year Lobo coach. She called that number "horrific," and Sanchez said: "We don't deserve to win games when we don't have the discipline you need to win."

At Fresno, the Lobos will need discipline and probably a lot of other good things.

The Bulldogs were expected to be a contender for the 2013 Mountain title and now have to be considered at least one of the teams to beat - especially if they can continue to repeat the offensive consistency they showed in San Diego.

The eight-point win was an impressive gap, but the Bulldogs coasted "down" to that final gap. They led by ten at the half and by as many as 20 points in the second half. They put a beating on the Aztecs.

Nevada also opened the MW race with a 67-54 win over struggling Air Force, so the MW top tier after one game includes Fresno State, Boise State, UNLV and Nevada.

At SDSU, Fresno was led by sophomore Alex Sheedy with 18 points. She hit three 3-pointers in the first half to help the `Dogs roll to that 10-point halftime lead. Ki-Ki Moore, a preseason all-MW pick, notched her third double-double with 15 points and 11 boards. The Bulldogs went 15-of-18 from the line at San Diego State and are shooting 84.1 percent from the stripe over the past two games.

Those two Bulldogs give Fresno a solid one-two punch, but really this team is more a one-two-three -four punch when it comes to scoring.

Junior guard Taylor Thompson has averaged 16.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals over the past four games. Thompson, the reigning MW Player of The Week, is a deadeye gun. She shoots 85 percent from the free-throw line and is hitting at a 57.6 clip on the floor over the past four games. Fresno also gets double figures from Rosie Moult with a 12.1 average.

The Lobos have one of the top guards and scorers in the Mountain in Caroline Durbin, who averages 12.7 points and is shooting 49.1 percent from 3-point range. However, Durbin needs more help on the scoreboard as no other Lobo is averaging in double figures. Deeva Vaughn is the closest with her 9.8 average and Sara Halasz is averaging 8.0 points.

The Lobos might have had a depth advantage at UNLV, but that might not be the case at Fresno. The Bulldogs have ten players averaging 9.6 minutes or more which, especially for a home game, gives Fresno plenty of bodies and fresh legs.

The challenge vs. Fresno State is to contain the Bulldogs' offense. Fresno's overall season stats were not sensational going into the `Dogs Mountain West opener, but they took their game up a notch vs. the Aztecs. The Bulldogs scored 80 against a quick and athletic San Diego State team. They average 68 points and have six players averaging between 7.9 and 16.1 points.

The Bulldogs are not overwhelming inside with their size unless they start 6-foot-6 Australian Jacinta Vanderberg . She averages 14.9 minutes and is productive with a 4.1 scoring average, a 4.9 board averages and she leads Fresno in blocked shots with 10.

Moult is 6-foot-1, Sheedy is 6-1, Moore is 5-8 and Thompson is 5-foot-5. Ta Nitra Byrd is only 6-foot, but she also can be a physical inside presence for the `Dogs. This team, like Colorado, is skilled on offense.

Obviously, a key for the Lobos is to shift the turnover tide that has damaged their offense of late. The Lobos have had at least 20 turnovers in the past three games.

The Bulldogs are getting a reputation as an offensive machine, but these `Dogs also can bite you on defense. They lead the league in steals at 13.4 per game. That's a lot.

Fresno opponents are averaging 20.4 turnovers a game. If the Lobos again drift into the 20-mark in miscues, it will be tough to win in Fresno.