Mar. 3—As home openers go, Thursday's University of New Mexico women's basketball game will be one for the history books.
The Lobos will host Colorado State at 5 p.m. in the opener Thursday, and tips off Friday at 5 as well, in a two-game series with major implications and unusual storylines.
Most important among them is that a Mountain West regular-season title will be determined. Colorado State (15-3, 11-3) needs one victory to lock up the crown, while UNM (12-3, 9-3) needs a sweep to take the title.
The odd, rescheduled series is the latest twist in a pandemic-impacted season that forced to the Lobos to play their first 15 games outside New Mexico. A recent revision to the state's public health order will allow UNM to host this series with no fans in the Pit stands.
Whatever the outcome, Lobos coach Mike Bradbury credits his team for persevering through a season that's included endless COVID tests, entirely too much time spent in hotel rooms and a slew of postponements and cancellations.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team," Bradbury said Tuesday. "It's been the most rewarding season I've had in terms of what we went through. For us to be in this position right now is incredible, no matter how things turn this week."
Monday's 97-65 win at Utah State capped a span of four games in seven days, so Bradbury gave his players Tuesday off. UNM did full preparations for Colorado State in mid-February before the teams' Feb. 12-13 series was postponed because of COVID issues. As a result, getting ready for this week's games won't require as much time as usual.
Bradbury and his staff did video study Tuesday, and the Lobos will practice in the Pit on Wednesday. The latter will be a bit strange in itself.
"I haven't even been in the building since the high school state tournament last March," Bradbury said. "Our players were excited when they found out we get to play in the Pit. Some of them have never played or practiced there."
Two Lobos who have are Antonia Anderson and Jaedyn De La Cerda, who will be honored in a senior day ceremony Thursday. Both were also honored during senior day ceremonies at Air Force and Utah State on UNM's recent road trip.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN? Colorado State and UNM go into the series first and second, respectively, in the Mountain West standings but they won't end up that way. Here are potential top-four finishes, depending on this week's results.
If Colorado State sweeps: The Rams finish first, followed by UNLV (15-8, 13-5), Fresno State (14-9, 12-6) and UNM. The Bulldogs' MWC winning percentage (.667) would be better than the Lobos' (.642).
If the teams split: CSU finishes first, followed by UNLV with UNM third and Fresno State fourth.
If New Mexico sweeps, the Lobos finish first, followed by UNLV with Colorado State third and Fresno State fourth.
UNLV and Fresno State have completed their schedules. The top six finishers will not play in Sunday's first round of the conference tournament.
WHAT A WEEK: UNM's LaTascya Duff was honored Tuesday as the league player of the week. The 5-foot-7 junior guard racked up big numbers in her first four UNM starts, averaging 26.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game to help UNM win three of four.
Duff made 21 3-pointers in the four games, hitting 61.8% from beyond the arc and narrowly missed the program record for points scored in a four-game stretch with 104. Abby Garchek scored 106 in a four-game span in 1997.
Women: Colorado State at UNM
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