How to watch and what to expect when Arizona women’s basketball travels to New Mexico

Arizona women’s basketball is used to playing in front of large crowds. Last season, the Wildcats led the Pac-12, finishing sixth in the nation at their home games in front of an average crowd of 7,822. It won’t be much different when they travel to New Mexico for this Sunday’s matchup against the Lobos, except that the large crowd will be cheering against them.

UNM was 19th in attendance last season. An average crowd of 4,191 fans turned out to cheer on the Lobos as they played in the pit. That hasn’t changed this season.

“It’s very difficult to play in the pit,” said the Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “They had about 5000 people for the ASU game so I think it’s going to be tough there. I think it’s going to be a game that they really publicize. Difficult to play in their place.”

Senior Jade Loville knows that well. As a member of the Boise State Broncos during her freshman three years of college, she regularly traveled to Albuquerque to play. She was able to share these experiences with her teammates.

“I told them Albuquerque was New Mexico’s Tucson,” Loville said. “That was our biggest game at Mountain West. So when we went there, we could expect a lot of fans. They come out and they support. And I tried to explain to the court…[Y]You’re in this little rectangle, but then the pit is higher than you, so it feels like everyone is just looking down, and it’s fun to play. It makes a lot of fun. I think we embrace those situations.”

While UNM lost to ASU 83-77 in overtime two weeks ago, the Lobos didn’t lose many home games last season. In fact, they only lost once at home during the 26-10 run that ended in a narrow loss in WNIT State in the WNIT Round of 16. It was definitely a show worth seeing.

Luckily for the Wildcats, the pit won’t be the first venue they’ve played at this season. Although attendance wasn’t great at The Dana on Mission Bay Thanksgiving Classic last week, Arizona experienced a situation where they weren’t energized by their thousands of fans.

“I just have to see how we react on the street,” said Barnes. “Just to someone else we weren’t that familiar with outside of McKale.”

Players had to find other ways to motivate themselves. It’s not something a seasoned player will find difficult.

“It was drilled into you from a young age just so you could compete and play basketball,” Loville said. “So that’s something we like to do. I think just being out there with your teammates, your sisters and generating your own energy in warm-ups, you know in our pre-game conversations. When we go into the dressing room there’s a lot of screaming and cheering and I think that just creates all this energy. And that’s the fun part. We do it for us. It’s always for our fans, but when we’re in a situation where there are other fans, we do it for us. We will be the same team, have the same energy and just accept the challenge.”

UNM is a different team this year. The heartbreaking defeat at Corvallis was the last game for Jaedyn De La Cerda and Antonia Anderson. They were two of five players who averaged double figures for the Lobos. De La Cerda led the team with 14.3 points per game while Anderson finished fifth with 11.2 PPG.

Luckily for the Lobos, the other three of those double-digit scorers have returned. Shaiquel McGruder, La Tascya Duffand La Tora Duff all picked up right where they left off last season.

McGruder posted 14.2 PPG for her team last season. She is contributing 14.0 so far this year. The team’s top scorer is close to a double-double with a team-best 8.7 rebounds per game, along with her points.

LaTascya Duff is up from 12.0 points last year to 13.0 this season. LaTora Duff also increased her point average from 12.0 last season to 12.7 now.

As a team, UNM has been an attacking juggernaut for the past two years. Last year they averaged 103.2 points per 100 possessions. In 2020-21 it was even higher 106.5. They’ve dropped to 89.5 earlier this season, but they’re also slightly better on defense.

Last year, the Lobos allowed opponents to score 92.9 points per 100 possessions. They’ve brought that down to 88.4 so far this season.

“High-octane offense,” Barnes said. “Coach [Mike] Bradbury is a really good coach who runs a lot of really good attacks. And if you remember, they played pretty well against us here for a while last year. And they score quickly and I think we saw over the weekend that we struggle with that a little bit when people come down and jack up threes or drive really hard.”

Last year, the Wildcats emerged victorious 77-60 at the McKale Center. The game was a tie after the first quarter, and Arizona led by just three points at halftime. The scoring didn’t become one-sided until the Wildcats outplayed the Lobos 22-13 in the third quarter and then followed up with a 20-15 in the fourth quarter.

Arizona is also a very different team this season. Most of the team that faced the Lobos last season is gone. Only four players from last year’s team will step onto the Albuquerque court. Cat Reese, Shaina Pellington, Helena Puyoand Madi Conner are the only Wildcats both healthy and returning from last season’s team.

Luckily for the Wildcats, they should be back in full force. With the exception of Lauren Ware, who was lost for the year before the season started, Barnes indicated they were healthy. Last weekend they played without Pellington who injured her ankle. The week before, they were without a freshman guard Paris-Clarkwho was on the concussion log.

“[Pellington] could have played [last weekend]’ Barnes said. “She was 80 percent. Letting them play and then letting it linger when there are some pretty big games coming up was just not something I wanted to risk.

The two remaining games gave other players a chance to shine. newcomers Kailyn Gilbert and Maya Nnaji both had great outings. Gilbert’s chance for extra playing time earned her the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award. Senior Helena Puyo started in both games and set a career-high scoring 22 points against San Diego.

#14/13 Arizona Wildcats (6-0, 0-0 Pac-12) @ New Mexico Lobos (4-3, 0-0 MWC)

When: Sunday, December 4 at 1:00 p.m. MST

Where: Dreamstyle Arena (The Pit) in Albuquerque, New Mexico

TV: Mountain West Network

Stream: Mountain West Network

Radio: Listen to Derrick Palmer’s appeal online The university network or on the radio at KTUC 1400 AM.

Statistics: New Mexico live stats

Rankings and Ratings: The Wildcats are ranked 14th on the AP Top 25 and 13th on the WBCA Coaches Poll. You are #20 in the ranking Your Hoop Stats reviews. According to the statistics service, they are No. 19 in attack and No. 26 in defense.

The Lobos are not ranked in either of the two major polls. They are ranked #170 in the HHS ratings. According to the statistics service, they are No. 137 on offense and No. 105 on defense.

projections: Their hoop stats give Arizona a 91.2 percent chance of winning on the road. The total predicted score is 80.3-62.4 for a 17.9 winning margin in the pit. The Wildcats would have a 96.1 win probability at home and a 94.1 on a neutral court.

Story: Arizona leads the all-time series 14-9. The Wildcats are currently on a four-game winning streak that will stretch from December 7, 2010 to December 12, 2021. This game is the second part of a home-and-home agreement between the two programs.

How to get involved

Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona wildcats. Follow our Deputy Editor for live tweets from women’s basketball games and news throughout the week @KimDoss71.