Thirty games into an exciting season, and tonight the team is on the verge of the end—win and play another game, lose and they start looking towards next season. And at this point in time, no one wants the season to end.
The Lobos have played at a high tempo all season, scoring 75 a game, outscoring their opponents by 12 a game. Tonight they face an opponent who plays at an even higher rate—Denver has a top-10 offence, scoring over 80 ppg. No matter how the game turns out, there will be a lot of points scored—the key for a Lobo win will be defense.
Unless the Lobos find a way to play some effective defense, those points
are not likely to matter. Denver has five starters who all average better than 10 points a game. Six foot one junior forward Madison Nelson (#23) leads Denver in both points (16 per game, almost all inside) and rebounds (almost 9 per game). Junior guard Laure Loven (5’7”, number 3) is second in scoring at over 14 per game, but does it almost exclusively from beyond the arc as she has hit 105 three-point shots and does so with a 46% efficiency. The third leading scorer is senior point guard Samantha Romanowski, (#22) who also leads the team in assists and steals.
If the Lobos do as they have been all season, Nike is likely to defend their best offensive threat Nelson, with Ahlise and Jayla getting much of the time on the two guards.
When the Lobos are on offense, the question will be who is the third scorer. All season the offense has revolved around Jaisa, Aisia, and Jayla. With Aisia out for the year, a third scorer stepping up will make UNM’s task decidedly easier. There are multiple options, and Ahlise, Jayden, and Madi are all capable of 30+ scoring games—but also capable of games where they hardly score. If any one of them can have a hot shooting night, even if not in great volume, the Lobo chances to advance go up greatly.
As in Las Vegas last week, Jayden de la Cerda and Jayla Evertt will handle most the PG duties with Aisia’s absence, and the team will look for who on the bench will contribute some meaningful minutes. Denver has the height to contest the Lobo’s inside presence, and at least one of the forwards will need to contribute off the bench–with Antonia getting the first shot to do so.