Stevens: Lobos Hope To Use Pit To Build Momentum For Las Vegas

March 5, 2013

New Mexico Women's Basketball - Mountain West - In The Pit

Wednesday: 6:30 p.m. (MT) - Nevada Wolf Pack (7-20, 2-12) at New Mexico Lobos (14-13, 6-8)
On The Air: 610-AM KNML with Joe Behrend and Nikki Heckroth-Lobato; U-Public-TV (Comcast 26) GameTracker, Game Story, Statistics, LoboTV

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez says there will be two hungry Packs in The Pit on Wednesday night: a Pack of Lobos from New Mexico, a Wolf Pack from Nevada.

"Everybody is hungry this last week," said Sanchez.

Lobo Whitney Johnson says the Pack from New Mexico also will have an angry gut.

"Definitely, it made us mad, angry and hungry for another win," said Johnson.

The "it" Johnson refers to are the spankings New Mexico received last week at San Diego State (72-44) and at Wyoming (72-50).

"I think we are more determined," said Johnson. "They (the losses) were pretty rough and exposed a lot of our weaknesses. We have to pick it up on our end and make sure we can execute and pick it up on defense."

The challenge at San Diego and at Laramie obviously was major. These teams and Fresno State were in a three-way battle for the Mountain Crown that eventually went to SDSU.

The Nevada Wolf Pack is 2-12 in the Mountain West and lost 69-66 to UNM in Reno. The Reno Pack has lost 16 of 18 games. But there is some fight in this Pack. They lost to UNM by three in Reno. They lost to Wyoming by one in Reno.

They won at Fresno State by six. UNM lost at Fresno State.

"Nevada is not a walk in the park," said Sanchez. "They beat Fresno at Fresno. They play super hard. They have a couple of shooters who are very good and a couple of post players who are very good. They are a better team than their record shows."

The Lobos (6-8) and Nevada (2-12) look different in their MW records, but the momentum factor is equal for both teams this week. The Mountain West Tournament begins next week in Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack and the Lobos and the Wolf Pack want to enter it coming off a feel-good week.

That means win, baby, win.

"That's all it's about this week, gaining some momentum for the conference tournament," said Sanchez.

Said UNM's Antiesha Brown: "If we get these two home wins, that's really big to go to conference tournament off of back-to-back wins. That's motivation for us.

"I would say we are pretty confident. The thing about basketball is you have to have a short term memory. You can't really pout about what happened on Saturday when you play on Wednesday."

The Lobos also want to give their loyal Pit fans a couple of wins and send out their seniors on a winning week. The seniors are Chinyere Nnaji, Caroline Durbin, Jayme Jackson, and Jourdan Erskine.

The last two Pit games also will be televised by U-Public (Comcast 26).

"To get two games on U-Public, being on Comcast cable, we can send out to recruits so they can watch our last couple of games," said Sanchez. "It's nice."

The Lobos are 2-4 in the Mountain West in The Pit and 4-4 on the MW road. UNM is looking to even that Pit league slate. Of course, that finish looks promising when you consider the Lobos won at Nevada and at Air Force.

"It's a kind of a reality check," said Brown of the 2013 season winding down. "We only have three guaranteed games left. So, that's three times you have to give it your all. We can't have any regrets. We have to leave it all out on the floor."

The Nevada Wolf Pack has some scorers. Guards Danika Sharp and Chanelle Brennan are No. 8 and No. 9 on the Mountain scoring charts. Arielle Wedeman is in the top ten in assists.

To state the obvious, the Reno Wolf Pack needs to play better offense, play tougher defense and hit some shots in order to pull the upset in The Pit. They also need a good shooting percentage from their guards. Nevada shoots 35.2 percent from the floor.

The Wolf Pack is No. 2 in the Mountain behind Wyoming in rebounding and No. 1 in offensive boards (15.7), but this Pack misses a lot of shots. Then, they go chase them looking for second-chance points.

"We need to pick it up on transition defense. They like to run," said Johnson. "They are a very physical team, very scrappy and alert, and play hard 100 percent of the time.

"They crash the O-boards. They had 25 O-boards on us the last game and that can't happen again."

The Lobos are led in scoring by Durbin with her 12.1 average. Deeva Vaughn is close to cracking into double figures at 9.7. Vaughn pulls down an average of 5.2 boards and Erskine has a 5.1 board average.

"Jourdan Erskine is playing as good as basketball as she has played in a long time," said Sanchez. "I'm really pleased with what's she is doing."