A conference tournament title was on the line the last time New Mexico and Boise State faced off.
The Broncos squashed UNM’s hopes of making it to the dance in a 66-60 nail-biter at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Lobos were on a tear at the end of the 2014-2015 campaign, having won 16 of their last 18 before the teams faced off.
This game will have a different feel to it.
“They’re a new team and we’re a new team,” head coach Yvonne Sanchez said in response to whether or not she was thinking about revenge.
Sanchez said she had not really thought about beating last year’s Mountain West tournament champions, but more so on keeping her team on the right track.
It was around this time last year when New Mexico was able to piece together the team’s identity to go on one of the most historic runs in program history which featured a 12 game win-streak at Wise Pies Arena.
As for this season, New Mexico is taking it one game at a time.
The Lobos will have their hands full with some of the premier players in the league coming to The Pit.
Junior guard Brooke Pahukoa ranks fourth in the conference in scoring and is complimented by fellow junior guard Yaiza Rodriguez who averages second in the MW with 5.4 assists.
The second-best scoring offense in the league (70.5 points per game), has been aided in large part by sophomore forward Shalen Shaw’s hustle stats. Shaw is averaging 2.3 steals per showing, tied for third in MW, and has 8.9 boards per contest, second best in conference.
Though Boise State (13-6, 6-2 MW) does give up 60.1 points per game, their offense is often fueled by the team’s ability to make plays on the defensive side of things.
The Lobos have recently shrugged off its offensive funk that they endured during the start of league-play. New Mexico’s offense has looked more comfortable in the past two games in wins over San Jose State and Air Force, though after both games Sanchez said she would like to see fewer turnovers.
UNM knows what it will have to do in order to propel the Lobos’ recent win-streak, but Sanchez said that is easier said then done.
“They play their starters quite a bit and they rely on them a lot, more so than their bench” Sanchez said. “It’s always a tough challenge for us.”
The Broncos have had New Mexico’s number in the past two years, winning four of the last five contests in that span. However, the last time Boise State came to Albuquerque, New Mexico, UNM took home a 63-60 victory as the regular season was coming to a close.
While Sanchez insisted the two teams facing off are different squads than from a season ago, the Lobos have lost just one starter while the Broncos have brought back the core of their squad from a season prior.
“The team that’s coming back is basically the nucleus of what they had last year,” Sanchez said. “It’s the same team running the same stuff.”
New Mexico (11-7, 4-3 MW) resides in fourth place, a game and a half behind Boise State’s third place spot. Even though the Lobos won’t climb in the standings with a win, Sanchez said the implications of this game are huge moving forward.
“I like where we’re at and this is going to be a huge test of are we hitting our stride or are we not,” Sanchez said.
Liam Cary-Eaves is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball, women’s basketball, baseball, and beach volleyball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Liam_CE.