Stevens: Lobos Second-Half Climb Starts In Pit Vs. Boise State

Feb. 3, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit

Saturday: 2 p.m. (MT), Boise State (11-11, 2-5) at New Mexico Lobos (7-14, 1-6)
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend and Nikki Heckroth Game Recap, Final Stats, GameTracker

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

As Yvonne Sanchez's Lobos and the other seven Mountain West women's basketball teams turn the corner, there are really only two things that appear to be locked in cement.

The San Diego State Aztecs (7-0) are the cream of the MW crop and the Air Force Falcons (0-7) own the cellar.

But things change.

The Lobos' challenge in the second half of the race is to improve and hopefully beat a few teams besides Air Force.

Which really makes Saturday's tip with Boise State significant for two reasons:

1- Boise State, at 2-5, is the next team above the Lobos in the Mountain West pecking order.
2- The Lobos are in The Pit on Saturday.

If the Lobos plan to turn things around and gain momentum heading into the Mountain West Tournament, this is the team to beat and this is the place to get it done. The climb starts here.

The final week of the first half didn't change perceptions concerning SDSU, but Colorado State's win over UNLV created some change just below the red-hot Aztecs. UNLV and CSU turned the corner at 5-2, just ahead of TCU and Wyoming at 4-3. The race for second place is a hot one.

The challenge to Boise State is similar to the challenge the New Mexico faces. Both teams want to move into that pack above them. The Broncos need to beat some teams besides New Mexico and Air Force.

The Lobos' first hurdle is to change what happened on the scoreboard in Boise. The Broncos challenge is to keep the Lobos beneath them on that board. The Broncos beat the Lobos convincingly, 65-46, in Boise.

SDSU: 17-4 -- 7-0
UNLV: 17-6 -- 5-2
CSU: 9-13 - 5-2
TCU: 11-11 - 4-3
Wyo: 8-12 - 4-3
BSU: 11-11 - 2-5
UNM: 7-14 - 1-6
AFA: 5-17 - 0-7

The game was closer earlier than that score might indicate. UNM was down 35-27 at the half. But poor ball handling and UNM's two-Lobo scoring punch (Porche Torrance and Caroline Durbin) doomed UNM to a 19-point fall. UNM's bench went 2-of-10 shooting in that game. UNM was down 65-40 at one point.

An obvious target for the Lobos is Bronco Lauren Lenhardt, who had 23 points against UNM in Game One. The 6-foot-2 Lenhardt is good. She can go inside with aggression or step out and hit the 3-pointer. She averages 15.0 overall and is the league's No. 1 scorer in MW games at 20.7. She shoots 53 percent from the floor overall.

The Broncos top the league in scoring in all games with a 69.6 average. Boise's challenge in the second half of the MW race is opposite of UNM's when it comes to points. The Broncos can score, but need to vastly improve on a defense which allows 68 points per game. The Lobos are well-coached on the defensive end, but challenged on the offensive end. UNM holds teams to 56.3 points, but scores only 54 points a game.

Torrance came hard at the Broncos in Boise. She had 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Durbin had 13 points and seven boards. They had little help.

Coach Sanchez left the game criticizing her team's lack of "toughness." Her Lobos also had 23 turnovers. "We could have made the game a little closer," Sanchez said.

The Lobos went with a man-to-man defense in Boise and, after that game, Sanchez questioned herself on not shifting into a zone to slow down the Broncos' inside muscle. That's a tough call. Boise can score inside and out.

Lenhardt, in league games, tops the conference in 3-point shooting percentage. She went 3-of-4 from long range vs. UNM. The Broncos have another dead eye from long range in Kati Isham, who is still Boise's leading scorer with a 15.1 average. The Lenhardt-Isham threat is a nice inside-outside punch for Boise State, but it also can be a zone-busting combo.

A zone might open things up for Lenhardt and Isham, but long shots don't always fall as often on the road. Boise has some inside muscle besides Lenhardt in 6-foot Nichole Brady, who average 7.1 boards, and 6-foot Kenai Poteet with a 6.6 board average. The Broncos also have a nice point guard in Heather Pilcher. Neither the Broncos nor the Lobos go deep on the bench.

There are several interesting things to factor into this game.

1. Can the Lobos slow down the Lenhardt-Isham combo?
2. Will the Lobos play zone or man?
3. If UNM zones, will Lenhardt and Isham break it?
4. Can the Lobos cut down on turnovers?
5. If UNM goes man, can they stop Boise penetration and Lenhardt inside?
6. Will Torrance and Durbin get any help on the scoreboard?

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at

Ashley Rhoades


Probable StartersHTPositionSeason Statistics
12 - Nikki Nelson5-5Guard5.1 Pts. - 2.6 Asts.
35 - Chinyere Nnaji6-0Post2.3 Pts. - 3.9 Rebs.
24 - Caroline Durbin6-0Guard14.9 Pts. - 4.0 Rebs.
23 - Porche Torrance6-1Wing10.5 Pts. - 8.6 Rebs.
21 - Jayme Jackson5-7Guard6.1 Pts. - 2.3 Rebs.

Head Coach: Yvonne Sanchez
The NM BenchHTPositionSeason Statistics
11 - Lauren Taylor6-0Guard7.1 Pts. - 1.4 Rebs.
14 - Jourdan Erskine6-2Wing5.3 Pts. - 6.3 Rebs.
43 - Emily Stark6-5Post1.6 Pts. - 1.2 Rebs.
41 - Jaime Parker5-9Wing1.0 Pts. -- 0.6 Rebs.
33 - Maddie Muraida6-2Post0.4 Pts. - 1.2 Rebs.
25 - Ashley Rhoades6-2Post0.9 Pts. - 1.7 Rebs.