UNM Opens WNIT at Home with Grand Canyon Wednesday
|WATCH: Mountain West Network
|RADIO: Lobo Radio Network|
|(KNML 95.9/ 610 AM flagship in Albuquerque)|
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.– It’s been nearly a month since the Lobo women’s basketball team last played in front of The Pit crowd, in what was thought to be the last home game of the season. However, New Mexico gets another game at home, hosting the Grand Canyon Lopes in the first round of the WNIT on Wednesday, March 16.
Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. with tickets available to purchase (link above). For those unable to attend, the game will be streamed on the Mountain West Network with radio and live stats also available to follow along.
For the fourth time in five years, and the ninth time in program history, the Lobo women’s basketball team is back in the postseason and the WNIT, set to face GCU for the first time in program history. UNM was one of four MW teams that were selected for the WNIT and has faced a total of six teams that are in the 64-team bracket.
Much like the Lobos, the Lopes enter the postseason after finishing second in their conference (the WAC) with a 14-4 record. Grand Canyon enters the WNIT having won three of its last four games, and losing in the WAC Tournament championship game to Stephen F. Austin, 74-57. The Lopes share four common opponents with the Lobos in Houston Baptist (won 63-54), Lamar (won 73-72), New Mexico State (won 61-59 and 46-43) and Stephen F. Austin (lost 61-43 and 74-57), with the Lopes going 4-2 in those games and the Lobos 4-1.
As a team, GCU leads the NCAA in steals (399) and is third in steals per game (12.9) and is seventh in turnovers forced (22.1). Amara Graham is ranked 48th in three-point field-goal percentage at 38.8 percent, but 84th in three-pointers made with 64. Graham is the only player to start all 31 games, with Tiarra Brown starting the second most at 24. Four players have played in all 31 games with Ja’Mya Powell-Smith, Kennedi Shorts and Tianna Brown joining Graham. In their last game, Powell-Smith, Graham, Tiarra Brown, Shorts and Chloe Akin-Otiko started with Powell-Smith leading with 14 points and Kiyley Flowers scoring 10 points and Jay McChristine scoring 12 points off the bench. Flowers led with seven rebounds and Powell-Smith led with three assists, while both had five steals in the game.
Graham leads the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game, the only GCU player averaging double figures, as well as assists with 63 on the season (2.0 per game), while McChristine leads in rebounds (6.2 per game), Flowers leads with 58 steals (2.1 per game) and Tiarra Brown leads with 19 blocks (0.7 per game). McChristine is shooting a team-high .486 from the floor with Graham shooting a team-best .388 from three, making 2.1 per game.
Wednesday’s matchup provides a contrast in scoring, while UNM is averaging 76.3 points per game on the season, GCU is averaging 65.6 points per game and holding opponents to 60.0 points per game.
For UNM, there are some trends to take note of. The first is the number 80, with the Lobos 9-0 on the season when scoring between 80 to 90 points and 12-0 when scoring more than 80 points. If the Lobos can dictate their style of play and build a lead, the Lobos are 20-2 when leading after the first quarter, 19-2 when leading at the half and 18-0 when leading after the third quarter. Adding to that, the Lobos are outscoring their opponents by a margin of 115 points in both the first and second quarter and have their highest point production in the fourth quarter with 657 points.
Another trend to take note of is on the defensive end, as the Lobos have held 21 opponents to shooting 39.9% and below in a game, and are 18-2 when opponents shoot between 30.0%-39.9%. In 12 games this season, UNM has finished with 10 or more steals in a game, with three times recording 15 steals, and 28 games with multiple blocks.
One final note of importance: UNM is 15-1 at home this season, and ranks 15th in the NCAA in attendance this season with 70,111 fans – an average of 4,382 fans a game, while GCU is 8-4 on the road.
As has been the case this season, the scoring for the Lobos has been balanced as New Mexico continues to have five players score in double figures, led by Jaedyn De La Cerda at 14.0 ppg, followed by Shaiquel McGruder (13.9), LaTora Duff (12.5), and Antonia Anderson and LaTascya Duff (11.2 ppg each). De La Cerda has reached double figures in 25 games, McGruder in 22 games, LaTora in 21 games, Anderson in 15, LaTascya in 17, and Paula Reus in eight games with LaTora scoring in double figures in the last five games, LaTascya in three of the last four, McGruder in five of the last seven games and De La Cerda in 10 of the last 11 games. De La Cerda also has had four 20-plus point performances in the last six games with 24 points and 26 points in two of the last three games. The Lobos have had a player score 20-plus points 23 times this season, including one in the last eight games and nine of the last 10 games.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will advance to face the winner of San Diego and California Baptist in the second round slated for March 19-22.