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TMCNet:  'It's Fun To Be 4-0'

[November 21, 2012]

'It's Fun To Be 4-0'

Nov 21, 2012 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Sometimes it's best just to look at the bottom line.

The University of New Mexico women's basketball team 60, New Mexico State 37.

Tuesday night's game at the Pit was not an artistic success, but the home team left with exactly what it wanted -- a win and its first 4-0 start since 2004.

The Lobos took their 10th straight victory in the Rio Grande Rivalry and their 32nd in 33 tries against the Aggies (1-2). Better still, UNM coach Yvonne Sanchez was able to lean heavily on her bench in the second of four games this week.

"We're a work in progress and we will be for a while," Sanchez said. "We still need to put an entire game together, but there were good stretches tonight, and I'm proud of our players. It's fun to be 4-0." Caroline Durbin scored 14 points, Sara Halasz and Jourdan Erskine added 10 apiece, and freshman point guard Bryce Owens chipped in four points and 10 assists for New Mexico. The Lobos won despite 18 turnovers, shooting 55 percent from the foul line and being outrebounded (44-43) for the first time this season.

The final numbers were even less pleasant for the ice-cold Aggies, who played without head coach Mark Trakh. NMSU shot just 21 percent from the field, was 4-of-32 in the second half and finished 0-for-18 from 3-point range.

Trakh left the team to tend to a family emergency and is expected to return to the sideline this weekend.

Danesia Williamson and Stefanie Gilbreath scored 10 points apiece for the Aggies, but they needed a combined 31 shots to get there.

"We just couldn't finish," said Aggies assistant coach Tamara Inoue, who coached in Trakh's place Tuesday. "UNM's a great ball club and they got after us, but I felt like we got a lot of the shots we wanted and just didn't hit anything." While some UNM players were happy to extend their recent domination of New Mexico State, others weren't quite sure what to make of the one-sided rivalry game.

"I thought it would be more physical," Owens said, "maybe a few elbows thrown, a fight or something. It never really got to that point." There was, however, plenty of pushing, shoving and hacking, resulting in 41 fouls and a choppy pace throughout.

Particularly sloppy was a first half that left UNM with a 27-22 lead. The Aggies shot terribly to start the game, but the Lobos kept their rivals close with a slew of turnovers and silly fouls.

UNM shot 48 percent to NMSU's 31, but the Aggies earned a 23-17 rebounding edge and had to feel good about the narrow deficit.

"We did a good job of fighting back in the first half," Inoue said, "but give UNM credit for making some good adjustments." Sanchez said her team made a few beneficial changes in its man-to-man defense after halftime. Durbin said the Lobos' biggest adjustments were more basic.

"We just tried to cut down on the silly fouls," she said. "I don't know if the stats show that, but we tried." New Mexico State started the half with two Kelsie Rozendaal free throws that trimmed its deficit to 27-24. But the Lobos steadily pulled away from there. Durbin and Erskine combined for nine points during an 11-2 run that made the score 38-26 and got a crowd of 6,403 energized.

While NMSU's offense continued to sputter, UNM's lead expanded and its starters called it a night. Junior Chinyere Nnaji missed her second straight game with concussion symptoms, but all 12 Lobos in uniform saw action and 10 scored.

"There was a stretch in the first half where we didn't stay poised," Sanchez said, "but we stepped up in the second half, especially on defense. Whenever (the Aggies) took a shot, we had a hand in their face. Defense was really the highlight for us tonight." Friday Thanksgiving tournaments North Texas at UNM, 5:30 p.m., 610 AM George Mason at NMSU, 5 p.m.

___ (c)2012 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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