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Lobos face slumping San Diego

With only two home games remaining, the UNM women’s basketball team will have to venture on the road in the Mountain West Conference.

The Lobos will face a slumping San Diego State University team Thursday night in San Diego, Calif. in a key Mountain West game.

UNM goes into the game on the heels of a 65-52 win over the Air Force Academy in The Pit last Saturday. With the win, the Lobos improved to 14-8 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West to put the team in fourth place. San Diego State has lost five of its last six games — including three straight — with its last loss coming at the hands of Brigham Young University 76-53 Saturday in Provo, Utah.

The losing streak has all but ended San Diego State’s hopes of contending for a high seed in next month’s Mountain West Conference tournament, March 7-10 in Las Vegas, Nev. The Aztecs are 11-11 overall and 3-6 in conference play. Nevertheless, UNM head coach Don Flanagan is wary of the Aztecs.

“They play very, very hard and show a great deal of effort,” Flanagan said. “They have good athletes on offense and play physical inside.”

The Aztecs may have their hands full with UNM. The Lobos defeated the Aztecs 86-66 in The Pit Jan.20. The game featured a combined 36 turnovers and 43 fouls. UNM dominated the game from start to finish, holding a comfortable lead the entire second half. The Lobos used their height advantage to outrebound the Aztecs 46-22, with 20 of those on the offensive end. UNM also outshot San Diego State from the foul line, 40 to 20.

“We shot the ball pretty well, reversed the ball well,” Flanagan said of the teams’ last meeting. “We have to make sure to reverse the ball and go inside.”

UNM was led by senior Miranda Sanchez and sophomore Jordan Adams who each pitched in 20 points. Adams was also nine-of-11 from the floor and had four blocks in the game, while Sanchez pulled down seven boards. San Diego State was led by sophomore guard Jamey Cox, who had 14 points and seven assists. Cox is the Aztecs’ leading scorer this season, averaging 10 points per game.

UNM brings the league’s second-best offense, which averages 69.5 points per game and shoots 43.4 percent from the floor. The Aztecs counter with the third-best defense in the Mountain West, giving up only 61 points per game.

Flanagan said UNM will need a balanced game to beat San Diego State.

“We have to play great defense and go inside on offense,” Flanagan said. “The key is rebounding, because they rebound well.”

The difference in the game could come down to whether UNM can continue their dominance in rebounding, free-throw shooting and whether San Diego State can contain Sanchez and Adams. The Lobos lead the conference in rebounding at 40.3 rebounds per game, while the Aztecs pull down 33.5. Sanchez hit 8-of-12 from the free-throw line the first time the two teams played. Sanchez is currently the 16th-best free-throw shooter in the country at 88.3 percent.

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If the Aztecs can contain Sanchez and Adams, it will force Molly McKinnon, Nikki Heckroth and the UNM bench to play well for the Lobos to get a win.

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