Confidence is a major component going into any tournament, let alone the Mountain West Conference Championships.
The New Mexico women’s basketball team has struggled all season late in games, taking a toll on the team’s resilience.
Head coach Yvonne Sanchez said that the 62-46 victory over San Diego State on Friday night will help bolster her team’s push during tournament play.
“It’s not just the fact that we won, it’s the way we won,” she said. “It gives us some momentum going into the conference tournament.”
The Lobos were on the path to make the same mistakes that have plagued the team all season.
UNM led by as much as 16 points in the first half with a dominating performance defensively, forcing 18 turnovers and only committing five of its own.
However, SDSU was able to limit its mistakes and chopped the lead down to six points before redshirt senior Sara Halasz hit a trey to end the Aztecs’ run.
“The girls came out, stepped up, and did what they were supposed to do,” Halasz said. “We followed the game plan like we were supposed to.”
In her final game in The Pit, Sara Halasz recorded 14 points and ripped down seven boards claiming the player of the game award on Senior Night.
“A great feeling to do that on my senior night,” Halasz said. “Having fun with it in front of the crowd supporting me and having my parents here… it was a huge honor.”
Halasz only recorded one turnover and the team as a whole committed 10 turnovers the entire game. Replicating minimal turnovers is going to be a key to the Lobos success in the first round of the conference tournament against Utah State, according to Sanchez.
“We need to take care of the ball,” Sanchez said. “Utah State is a team that doesn’t do much pressuring. They are going to do even less than San Diego State, but we still had turnovers up there.”
Along with ball security, another major concern for the Lobos is going to be finding a way to stop guard Jennifer Schlott. Schlott has led the most potent offense in the league, and is atop the conference in points per game (27.2) and assists per game (5.7).
Schlott has been able to shed through the Lobos’ defense during both occurrences, dropping 30 points on the Lobos in The Pit during the first meeting, followed by a 33 point scoring expedition in Logan, Utah.
“We’re playing a very good team, in my opinion, probably the best player in the conference,” Sanchez said of Schlott.
Utah State swept UNM in two very close games between the two squads this season. In the first meeting, New Mexico lost at home 69-75 despite a late surge, nearly erasing an 11 point deficit.
In Logan, Utah the Lobos struggled to close the door after having a one-point lead with 32 seconds remaining in the contest. A missed 3-pointer from Brea Mitchell and a foul committed by Bryce Owens allowed Jennifer Schlott to finish the game from the free throw line in a 67-65 loss.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times,” Salasz said. “It’s tournament time. It’s time to go.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.