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Monday, December 22, 2014

UNM women take on last-place Air Force

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It may have taken some time, but UNM women’s basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez feels her Lobos are coming into form.

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“It’s (like) soup with potatoes, and potatoes take a little longer to cook,” she said. “But it’s getting there.”

That recipe isn’t done yet.

UNM (11-9, 3-4 MWC) reaches the league schedule’s midway point today with a road contest against last-place Air Force. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Lobos are looking for their second straight win after a 69-66 win at Nevada on Saturday snapped a two-game losing streak.

Sanchez said she liked what she saw in practice leading up to the Nevada game, and that trend continued into Monday’s session.

Junior forward Deeva Vaughn added that the Lobos have worked on the “little things that we’re clicking on,” such as defending the fast break and getting steals.

“Slowly but surely, I feel like we have a lot more team chemistry,” Vaughn said. “We’re just bringing it together as a whole. I’d rather it come now in conference than be upset by somebody beating us. This is a good lesson for us, and I’m glad we’re learning early.”

Despite their record, the Falcons (2-18, 1-6 MWC) won’t be an easy matchup, Sanchez said.

The Falcons like to drive to the basket, which will be a challenge for a Lobo defense that, the coach admits, puts foes to the free-throw line often. She said her team must take care of the ball, execute its offense effectively and work the ball into the low post “early and often.”

Riding a five-game losing streak, Air Force’s two wins this year came in overtime versus Cal State Bakersfield and in a conference game against UNLV.

Against conference foes, the Falcons rank last in scoring offense (55 points per game) and give up the second most points (68.6 per game). They’ve lost by a league-worst average of 13.6 points per game with a last-place field goal percentage mark of 33.3 percent.

Senior guard Alicia Leipprandt is Air Force’s top scoring threat, averaging 12.2 points overall this season. With 11.9 points per game in the seven conference games, she’s the only Falcon player to average double-digit scoring.

Senior forwards Dymond James and Katie Hilbig each pull down about seven rebounds per game overall.

Vaughn said that while she expects the Lobos to have an advantage in post play against Air Force, it will be an aggressive game, especially on the defensive end.

“Defense wins game; offense sells tickets,” she said. “I feel that if we just keep pushing on the defensive end, we’ll be fine.”
UNM, meanwhile, averages in conference 58.6 points offensively and has surrendered 63.6 points per game in league play thus far. The Lobos shoot 41.6 percent from the field against MWC opponents, the league’s third-best mark.

Senior guard Caroline Durbin leads the Lobos in points overall this season with 11.9 points per game, while senior forward Jourdan Erskine is UNM’s top rebounder with 5.4 boards per game overall. Vaughn has averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds overall.

“I think our team now is starting to settle in,” Sanchez said. “I know it’s February, but that happens sometimes with a young team. Better now than never. I really like where they’re at right now.”