In more ways than one, the UNM women’s basketball team could not successfully rebound against Wyoming Wednesday night at The Pit.
Following a 63-39 pounding against San Diego State last Saturday, the Lobos hoped to enter the top half of the Mountain West standings, but a lack of rebounds resulted in a 72-54 loss against the Cowgirls.
The Cowgirls outhustled the Lobos inside the paint and snatched 50 rebounds, compared to only 35 boards for UNM. Wyoming’s 16 offensive rebounds resulted in 17 second-chance points.
The 65th matchup between the two programs brought about the first time the Lobos have been outrebounded in Mountain West play this season and the first time since the Colorado Buffaloes grasped more rebounds (42-31) than New Mexico on Dec. 29.
Head coach Yvonne Sanchez said the rebound differential was too big to overcome.
“They are a very well-coached team that focuses on fundamentals,” Sanchez said. “It’s huge. It’s pretty much the ballgame when there’s (rebounds) like that.”
Following the conference loss, UNM (10-9, 2-4 MWC) remains in fifth and in the middle of the pack in the MWC standings. The Lobos are now four games behind conference leader Fresno State (13-6, 6-1).
New Mexico led 19-16 with 5:30 remaining in the first half, but Wyoming proceeded to go on a 13-3 run for a commanding 29-22 lead at halftime. The Cowgirls pulled away in the second half after shooting 50 percent from the field (15-30).
Sanchez said the Lobos’ frustration on the offensive end during that series resulted in poor defense against the Cowboys.
“We let our offense dictate our defense, which you can’t do,” she said. “If you miss some shots, you have to go on the other end and get some stops. Our defense needs to get better; we’re not an offensive team.”
Junior guard Sara Halasz added that from now on, the team has to focus on defense before any other facets of the game.
“We can’t outscore our opponents,” Halasz said. “It has to come from digging deep on defense, getting stops, and then using that momentum to score.”
Junior forward Deeva Vaughn paced the Lobos with 13 points and seven rebounds. Halasz started her first conference game of the season and contributed 12 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Wyoming’s senior forward Chaundra Sewell dominated the game with 17 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Sewell came into the game leading the Mountain West in rebounds per game at 9.1 and shooting percentage at 42.7 percent.
“Sewell is a heck of a player. When you try to take her away, other players make shots. This year, she is one of the best players in the conference,” Sanchez said.
Even with two straight MWC double-digit losses, Sanchez said she believes the team is making a turnaround for the better.
“You have this corner and you are almost turning it, but then you don’t,” she said. “We’re almost there and at the corner, but we have to turn it, and this team will.”