Albuquerque Journal

Expect fast pace and lots of points

Lobo women host FSU in Texas

- BY KEN SICKENGER JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Thursday’s game against Fresno State may be a little tough to classify for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team.

A home-away-from-home game, perhaps?

After starting the season with seven straight road contests, the Lobos (6-1, 3-1 Mountain West) will technicall­y be the home team for their twogame, Thursday-Saturday series against the Bulldogs (8-5, 6-2). Both games will played at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, roughly 300 miles east of Albuquerqu­e.

The state’s collegiate athletic teams cannot play home games because of New Mexico’s coronaviru­s restrictio­ns.

Still, after his team bused to Canyon on Tuesday and practiced there Wednesday morning, Lobos coach Mike Bradbury conceded Thursday’s contest does not feel much like a homecoming.

“It feels just like a road game,” Bradbury said. “It probably took us just as long to get here as it did for Fresno State because they flew most of the way.”

More encouragin­g news for UNM came last week when an amendment to New Mexico’s public health order allowed the state’s collegiate teams to begin practicing at home. The Lobos got six full workouts in at the Davalos Basketball Center between their last game (an 81-73 win at UNLV on Jan. 17) and Tuesday’s ride to Canyon.

“It’s a lot easier practicing at home,” Lobos junior point guard LaTora Duff said. “You can get in the gym to shoot or work on things. It’s just

easier.”

The Lobos got extra preparatio­n time for this week’s series because San Jose State’s women’s program has opted out of its remaining games. UNM was scheduled to play the Spartans last week.

Instead, Bradbury and his staff used the time to install some new wrinkles before prepping specifical­ly for Fresno State. The Lobos figure to need all the options they can get against a high-powered Bulldogs squad that was picked to repeat as MWC regular-season champion.

“They might have three of the five best players in the league,” Bradbury said, referring to senior forward Maddi Utti and twin sophomore guards Haley and Hanna Cavinder. “They play fast and they can really score.”

The latter descriptio­n also applies to the Lobos, who lead the conference in scoring (88.3 points per game) and have never met a 3-point shot they didn’t like. The up-tempo, aggressive mentality suits Duff’s style as a point guard.

“Everyone can score whether it’s a starter or someone off the bench,” she said. “I love playing with this team.”

Duff noted plenty of similariti­es between UNM and Fresno State during this week’s preparatio­n — including that both teams rely heavily on twin sisters.

The Cavinders rank 1-2 in MWC scoring (Haley 19.6 points per game, Hanna 17.5), while LaTora Duff (12.7 ppg) and her sister LaTascya (14.7) also are among the league leaders.

“They can score the ball,” LaTora said, “just like we do.”

Bradbury said slowing down Fresno State’s transition offense will be job one in Thursday’s matchup, but he expects a high-scoring game nonetheles­s. LaTora Duff agreed but laughed when asked if 90 points would be needed to win.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I have more confidence in our defense than that.”

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