Western Michigan, the New Mexico women's basketball team’s first opponent of the season, isn’t an easy one, head coach Mike Bradbury said at Thursday’s press conference.
And he’s right.
In comparison to last season’s home opener against Fairleigh Dickinson, where the Lobos won by nearly 30 points, the Western Michigan Broncos are no slouch.
Just a season ago, the Broncos posted a 19-13 record overall — and nearly won a game at then-No. 21 ranked Michigan State in overtime.
Not only that, but Western Michigan is returning three starters in junior forward Breanna Mobley, senior center Marley Hill and junior guard Deja Wimby.
Those three starters also finished at the top of the totem pole in scoring, too, as Mobley led last year’s Western Michigan team by averaging 14.4 points per game. Hill finished second in scoring per game a season ago, putting up 13.7 points and Wimby — who’s mostly known for her astute defense — finished fourth in scoring last season by averaging 11.9 points per game.
Not to mention that Wimby was named to the All-MAC Defensive Team, as she had 86 steals a season ago, which tied for 30th in the nation.
All of those things, Bradbury said, make Western Michigan as good as they are.
“Post players are really good,” Bradbury said. “Point guard is outstanding; it’ll be very difficult to keep her in front of us. We have to keep the big guys off the boards a little bit. They rebound (the ball) very well.
“They have very capable three-point shooters. They don’t shoot a lot of them, but they shoot them effectively when they do. So they’re going to present a lot of problems.”
Bradbury’s right. A season ago, the Broncos — as a team — averaged 38.4 rebounds per game, where Mobley led her team by averaging 9.9 per game. As far as three-point shooting goes, they averaged 4.5 of them per game, while averaging 31.2 percent during the season.
The Lobos, though, return one full time starter in senior guard Cherise Beynon, while also adding players like senior guard Alex Lapeyrolerie and junior center Jaisa Nunn. All three of them started in the two exhibition games prior to the season opener.
Nunn, who will be the tallest Lobo on the court on Friday evening, averaged seven rebounds per game and 10.4 points per game in the 21 games she appeared in before tearing her ACL last season.
The most notable of the returning Lobos, though, is Beynon. She started all 30 games for the Lobos last season, while leading the team in points per game at 15.8. She was also a leader in the Mountain West in assists per game at 6.6 and steals overall with 198 of them.
Bradbury said that the Broncos, unlike the Lobos, are not a fast-paced team. So when it comes to how New Mexico plays, he said that they want to try to push the pace.
“Yeah, we need to get it going up and down (the court),” he said. “They traditionally don’t like to play extremely fast, but they’ll push it when they want to.”
As for some of the new faces to the program this year, such as freshman guard N’Dea Flye, who started both exhibition games, Bradbury said, “All of the young ones are making progress.”
But are the Lobos ready for Friday night?
“We’re prepared,” Bradbury said. “I mean, we've spent a lot of time on them. I feel comfortable in the plan and what we’re doing and how our kids have responded to it. Now we just kind of got to take it out there and see how it goes.”
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Dreamstyle Arena, broadcasted live on the Mountain West Network.
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers baseball and men’s and women’s basketball but also contributes content for football. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.