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UNM women should beat Utah State, but here's why Lobos aren't taking these Aggies for granted

Jan. 9—Under normal circumstances, Wednesday's home game against Utah State might qualify as a trap game for the UNM women's basketball team.

After all, the Aggies (3-11 overall) finished last in the Mountain West last season, were picked to finish last again this season, and they're off to an 0-3 start in conference play.

What's more, USU ranks last in the MWC in scoring offense and scoring defense and has just one player, guard Cheyenne Stubbs, scoring double figures (15.2 points per game).

It stacks up as a game the Lobos (10-5, 1-1) should win, and with matchups against conference contenders Colorado State and Wyoming looming on the schedule, Wednesday's game at the Pit might be easy to overlook.

Not this time.

Coming off a frustrating home loss to Boise State, coach Mike Bradbury and his players know they cannot afford to let down in their only meeting against the Aggies this season.

"Can't happen," junior Nyah Wilson said. "Everyone's good in this league and every team's going to have their nights. We have to treat them that way."

After watching video of Utah State's most recent games, Bradbury was not about to sell the Aggies short.

"They played a really close game against Wyoming (a 54-48 Cowgirls win)," Bradbury said, "and that gets your attention. They've got a very dynamic player in Stubbs, who is concerning. And, we didn't play very well in our last game, so we have to be fully focused on this one."

UNM's offense was not clicking against Boise State, unable to hit enough perimeter shots against the Broncos' half-court zone defense. The Lobos were a chilly 8-for-29 from 3-point range.

But Bradbury was more concerned with his team's transition defense, which failed to locate shooters quickly enough and allowed five of BSU's 11 3-pointers to go up largely uncontested.

"I know we missed too many shots and had a few bad turnovers," he said, "but transition defense was the thing. That's what kept us from having a chance to win the game."

Bench play also was a problem for UNM, which did not get a point from any of its reserves. Bradbury continues to shuffle his bench rotation in hopes of finding steady production.

"We just need someone to give us a spark," he said. "I don't want to read too much into one game, but I won't be afraid to change things up if necessary."

The Lobos' bench figures to be back at full strength Wednesday after sophomore guard Jaelyn Bates returned to practice this week. Bates missed Saturday's game because of illness.

Wednesday's game does not figure to go much like the Lobos' meetings with Utah State last season. UNM blew out the Aggies by 98-60 and 111-55 margins in 2022-23.

But with 12 newcomers and considerably more height on this season's roster, USU has been better defensively and generally more competitive.

"They rebound everything," Bradbury said. "That's what stands out, and they like to score in transition. Our transition defense has to be better than it was Saturday — a lot better."

Point guard Aniyah Augmon said she expects the Lobos to bring the right mentality to Wednesday's game.

"Respect every opponent," she said. "That's it. You have to take that approach and we will."