Stevens: Lobos Look For Back-To-Back MW Wins When TCU Visits

Feb. 24, 2012

Lobo Jersey Auction: Lobo jersey's will be auctioned Saturday with proceeds going to the UNM Hospital Cancer Research Center. Bids can be placed during the game at tables located along the North concourse in The Pit. The jersey auction ends at the eight-minute media time out and winners will be announced at the four-minute media time out. Since the Lobos will be wearing these jerseys, the jerseys will be washed after the game and UNM's marketing department will arrange for the winners to pick up their prizes at a later date.

New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: 2 p.m., TCU Horned Frogs at New Mexico Lobos
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend & Nikki Heckroth Game Story, Complete Stats, LoboTV, GameTracker

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The Pit has two exciting chores to handle Saturday when the TCU Horned Frogs come to visit the Lobos.

First, The Pit needs to do its thing to help Yvonne Sanchez's Lobos post their first back-to-back Mountain West wins of the season and help push UNM toward the Mountain West Conference Tournament with some much-needed momentum. The MW tourney is March 7-10 in Las Vegas.

Second, The Pit needs to hang around for the end of this 2 p.m. contest and let four darlings of The Pit know how special it was to watch them play basketball for four years -- and one year.

The seniors that will be honored at the game's end are Lauren Taylor, Nikki Nelson, Porche Torrance and Ashley Rhoades, who joined the squad this season when UNM's numbers were decimated by injury. A highlight video on each senior also will be played at the game's end.

Torrance got her first start as a Lobo as a sophomore and then had a breakout season as a junior. As a senior, she has proven herself to one of the top inside players in the Mountain West, especially when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots.

Taylor started 12 games as a sophomore in 2009-10 and was a First Team All-Academic player as a junior. A knee injury cost Taylor a little quickness on the court, but she has continued to be a big threat for UNM behind the 3-point line and at the free-throw line.

Nelson, a 5-foot-5, ball-handling ace, also had her career at UNM damaged by injury. She had to redshirt as a freshman due to knee surgery and then again in 2010-11. Nelson actually has another year of athletic eligibility, but the damage to her knees has forced her to walk away from the court and continue her academic pursuits at UNM.

Lobo basketball fans probably wish that Rhoades had gone out for basketball a few seasons earlier. Her potential is obvious, and this Lobo volleyball star should get a special sendoff Saturday for coming to the rescue after UNM lost Sara Halasz, Whitney Johnson and Deeva Vaughn to injury.

Of course, the TCU game is a big one. Not so much for seeding, but because the Lobos went into the second half of the MW race looking to beat someone besides Air Force and the Lobos already have added Wyoming and Colorado State to that hit list.

UNM is coming off a 53-45 win over Colorado State on Wednesday. The Lobos end their regular season on Feb. 29 at Air Force, looking for a season's sweep of the Falcons. UNM beat Air Force 67-44 in The Pit.

A win over TCU would be special, too, because the Frogs are quick and aggressive and it would be nice for the Lobos to beat a Mountain West speed team.

The Lobos played TCU tough in Fort Worth, losing 63-56. That loss dropped UNM to 0-6 in the Mountain, but UNM now stands 3-9 in league standings.

The Horned Frogs looked like they might stroll to an easy win at TCU when they held a 53-41 lead. UNM went on a 10-0 run to cut the gap to 53-51 with 2:27 to play. The Frogs pulled away down the stretch, but it was not an easy win for TCU.

UNM's Caroline Durbin did not start the game due to a knee sprain, but came off the bench to lead all scorers with 20 points. Torrance had 10 points and nine boards and Chinyere Nnaji had seven boards at TCU.

The Pit game is a big one for TCU, which is a game behind UNLV and Colorado State in the MW standings. TCU is 14-13 overall and tied with Wyoming at 7-5. UNLV and CSU are at 8-4. San Diego State has run away with the Mountain West title and stand 11-1. The Lobos (3-9) are a game back of Boise State (4-8).

Boise State plays host to Wyoming and finishes up at San Diego State. If UNM can beat TCU and win at Air Force, the Lobos would have a good chance to at least finish in a tie with Boise State.

TCU is averaging 60.7 points per game while giving up 56.8. The Lobos are No. 2 in the MW in scoring defense yielding 56.7 points per game. TCU uses its quickness to pressure the ball and tops the Mountain in field goal percentage defense at .345 percent.

A key for UNM is to run an efficient offense against the Frogs and make open shots when they come. The Lobos also need to take care of the basketball.

TCU also is good at pressuring the ball on the edge and is No. 2 in the MW in 3-point field goal defense at .288 percent.

The Frogs are paced in scoring by Natalie Ventress, who averages 13.8 points and is making a bid for MW Freshman of The Year honors. Ventress averages 17.5 points in MW games. Durbin scores at a 15.6 clip for the Lobos and should be a strong candidate for All-MW honors.

A key for both teams will be having a few other scorers step up to help their top guns. Torrance is a top candidate for UNM and Chelsea Prince shoots at a high percentage (42 percent) for TCU.

One reason Prince shoots so well is that she is No. 4 in the MW in steals averaging two per game. The Lobos do not want to be watching Prince shoot layups.

"TCU likes to pressure the ball," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. "We had too many turnovers against Colorado State (22) and we can't have a number like that against TCU because it probably means they are getting out in transition."

UNM has had a number of high turnover games in MW play: 22 vs. CSU (twice), 23 vs. Boise State, 20 vs. SDSU, 21 vs. UNLV. The Ram's height and length helped them force UNM into turnovers. TCU will do it with quickness.

TCU is quick and the Frogs have added a little height to their lineup since the last time they played UNM. TCU lists 6-2 Latricia Lovings and 6-3 Ashley Colbert as starters. TCU also has 6-2 Delisa Gross coming off the bench.

The Horned Frogs have won two straight MW games and are looking for their fourth consecutive win over the Lobos. TCU held Air Force to 17.3 shooting. The Frogs have held three teams this season to under 20 percent shooting from the field.