Stevens: Sanchez's Lobos Plan Unfriendly Welcome For Lenhardt & Broncos

Jan. 14, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Women Basketball - Mountain West - In The Pit

Wednesday: 7 p.m., Boise State (8-6, 1-0) at New Mexico Lobos (8-7, 0-2)
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By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Don't be surprised if when the Boise State bus pulls outside The Pit on Wednesday, a couple of Yvonne Sanchez Lobos are waiting at the bus door to greet Bronco Lauren Lenhardt.

And not with a welcome mat and a bouquet of roses.

The Lobos need to have a thorny heart when it comes to the Broncos' star and maybe a good place to start shadowing the 6-foot-2 senior is on her first step down onto Lobo soil.

That might be the only time Lenhardt won't be coming off a screen.

"We are going to put a lot of people on her, do it by committee," said Sanchez. "We are going to be physical with her as much as we can. You can't let her post up, but she also can hit the three. She's a handful. She is going to be tough to stop."

Lenhardt was a thorn in the Lobos' side in 2012 even though the Lobos got the last laugh by eliminating Boise State in the 2012 Mountain West Tournament. But that kick off the Mountain was no fault of Lenhardt. She scored 18 and hauled down 10 boards in UNM's 51-50 upset.

She scored 16 vs. the Lobos in Boise State's win in The Pit last year and netted 23 points in the Broncos' win in Boise.

Coach Sanchez pointed out Monday on her weekly radio show at Kelly's Brew Pub that last year the Lobos had Porche Torrance, the MW's Defensive Player of The Year, to throw at Lenhardt. The Bronco still averaged 19 points on UNM last year. There is no Torrance to call up in 2013.

Obviously, the Broncos want the talented Lenhardt to get the ball. She had taken 171 shots so far this season and is hitting at a 45 percent clip. She averages 14.7 points and 7.8 boards and lofted in a game-winning trey over the Wyoming defense in Boise State's 70-68 home win over the Cowgirls. She scored 18 points and 10 boards in that win and picked up her third MW Player of the Week award.

Lenhardt can shoot "lights out." She once put up 37 against Hawaii. Coach Sanchez says she hopes the "light switch" comes on for her young Lobos Wednesday night in The Pit.

If it doesn't, Sanchez's Lobos will find themselves deeper in the dark side of the Mountain West standings. "We have a couple of kids who are struggling," said Sanchez. "But the light is going to click with some of these kids and they are going to help us win basketball games."

For sure, the Lobos - 0-2 in the MW race - need to crack into the league's win column. It's a double must-win situation because this game is in The Pit against a Boise State team looking for a road breakthrough to package with the Broncos' key home win over Wyoming.

That would be an attractive 2-0 package for Boise. An 0-and-3 Mountain start for the Lobos would not look so good. UNM also is looking to snap a four-game losing skid with all four losses coming on the highway.

They are in the Mountain West cellar at 0-2 and join Colorado State (0-1) as the only MW teams without a win. Fresno State (2-0) and Boise State (1-0) are the only league teams without a stain . "It's great to be back home," said Sanchez. "We love The Pit."

The Lobos have struggled to find wins lately and turnovers and foul shooting have helped keep UNM out of the win column. The Lobos had 27 turnovers at UNLV and early turnovers helped UNM fall into a hole at Fresno State. The Broncos are well aware of this UNM Achilles Heel. UNM had 23, 20 and 24 turnovers in the three games with Boise State in 2012.

The Lobos also have shot fewer free throws (222) than UNLV (366), Nevada (357), Air Force (290), Wyoming (274), Fresno State (255) and Boise State (246).

"We're not getting to the free-throw line enough," said Sanchez. "We are not being aggressive enough in the post or in the guard positions. That's the most glaring thing we have to change to get back in this thing."

Lenhardt might be Boise State's main gun, but there are a few more offensive weapons in the Broncos' saddle. Brandi Henton had a career-high 21 points vs. Wyoming. Diana Lee averages 5.0 assists per game. You don't want to foul Miquelle Askew late in a close game. She is shooting 87 percent at the line.

The good news for the Lobos is that they match up well against the Broncos. Boise State is not a transition team like UNLV and play at a conservative pace, averaging 64.7 points per game. They are not huge with the 6-2 Lenhardt and the 6-3 Askew (7.8 ppg) as the two tallest inside threats.

The Broncos try to out-execute, out-shoot and out-Lenhardt teams. They like to set a lot of screens for Lenhardt, but also like to pop off other players to launch the three. If Boise State is hot from long range and if Lenhardt can't be contained, the Broncos' opponents are in trouble.

Sanchez also said the Broncos - like UNLV - are a team hot for revenge after being knocked out of the 2012 Mountain West Tournament by Lobos.

"They are being reminded that we were the team to knock them out," said Sanchez.