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Monday, December 22, 2014

Women's Basketball: Win streak in the works

Upward momentum may show in tonight’s match

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Sara Halasz runs the ball up court as Jasmine Smith #11 and Classye James #15 of the San Jose State Spartans guard her path. Halasz had 18 points to lead UNM on the scoreboard before the end of the first half ultimately assisting in a Lobo victory 76-73 at the Pit, snapping a five-game UNM losing streak.

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Tight games have not been going in favor of the New Mexico women’s basketball team as of late, but a three-point victory over San Jose State proved that UNM can still win nail biters.

The Lobos have struggled in close games during Mountain West play, losing four of their last five games that were decided by two possessions or less. However, the issues that plagued UNM (8-12, 3-6 MW) during its five-game losing streak were corrected in a 76-73 win over SJSU (8-13, 2-8 MW).

“We just learned from the last two games that were close,” Sanchez said. “They had the last shot and we got the rebound and were fortunate enough to get out of there.”

Sanchez said she feels good to be on the other side of a closely contested game, and even though her team still has work to do, she is pleased with the win.

“To get that first win, especially when you’re on a slide, is hard,” Sanchez said. “Our kids feel good about it.”

Despite trailing by nine points in the second half, UNM was able to retake the lead later on.

UNM missed two consecutive free throws and a 3-pointer that would have put the game out of reach. SJSU then missed its last-second opportunity after hurling a shot from behind the arc that would have sent the game to overtime.

Sanchez said the shot was well contested and she was proud of the way her team closed out the game. She added that the growth of her players has been pleasing to watch.

“I think you’re seeing people play with a lot more confidence,” Sanchez said. “In terms of our team development we’re doing a good job. We’ve got to string those into wins now.”

UNM travels to Wyoming (13-6, 4-4 MW) tonight with the opening tip at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.

The Cowgirls have two of the top six scorers in the MW: forward Kayla Woodward is second, averaging 17.7 points per game, and guard Fallon Lewis is sixth with 14.8 points. Guard Kaitlyn Mileto is the third-leading scorer for Wyoming, averaging 13.8 points per game.

Lewis also ranks first in the conference in rebounds per game, grabbing 10.4 per contest.

Wyoming has yet to lose a conference home game this season (4-0) and is averaging 74.0 points per game in Laramie. UNM has allowed teams to score an average of 70.2 points per game over nine conference games.

Sanchez said playing in Laramie is always tough because the Cowgirls will draw a solid crowd even under tough weather conditions.

Although the Lobos have already beaten the Cowgirls this season with a 75-65 victory at The Pit on Jan. 8, Sanchez said UNM must play well on both sides of the ball in order to complete the regular season sweep of Wyoming.

“We’ve got to make sure, defensively, we talk. Offensively, we have to take it right at them,” Sanchez said. “If we play well, we’ve got a great chance.”