Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sunday, February 22, 2015 - Monday, March 2, 2015

So, what a longer than expected and interesting trip this turned out to. Jill was teaching a class in Albuquerque, and since it was around my birthday I decided to tag along. As the flights were less expensive on Southwest, Jill and I traveled separately for this trip (which worked out pretty well for her in the end). On Sunday, I dropped Jill off at the airport in Syracuse for her flights to Albuquerque and then headed for Rochester for my flights. With some time to kill in Rochester, I grabbed brunch at Hick's and McCarthy in Pittsford; I had remembered going here when I was a student at St. John Fisher and it was nostalgic to return for a bite to eat. With even more time to waste I had a drink while watching the Southampton footy match at the Buffalo Wild Wings. Then it was off to the airport and my flights; first from Rochester to Chicago Midway, then from there onto Albuquerque.

While in Albuquerque, I/we made the rounds at some of the local eateries. On Monday, I had lunch at the Chama River Brewing Company; Monday evening we had dinner at the El Pinto Restaurant and Cantina on the suggestion of a local. On Wednesday, I went up the Sandia Peak Tramway, with some pretty good views of the city and surrounding area below. Wednesday night, Jill and I went to the UNM Lobos ladies basketball game against Boise State at 'The Pit', the famous arena at the University of New Mexico. After the game, we grabbed some eats at O'Niell's Pub. Guy Fieri and Triple D drove my birthday lunch choice as I ate at the Nexus Brewery. For my birthday dinner, Jill and I went to Indigo Crow Cafe. On Friday, when Jill was done with work, we went to the Jinja Asian restaurant for lunch, and in the evening finished up our foodie tour of Albuquerque at Kellys Brew Pub.

Then, we got to Saturday - travel day for both Jill and I. Woke up in the morning to what locals termed as the 'worst snow storm in decades'. Through much slipping and sliding (and a Hail Mary sprint up an on ramp at the airport) I got Jill to her flight. I attempted to take the car back to the rental area, but there was a bus jack kniffed at the entrance; so, instead, I found a Waffle House to hide at for a while. Returning to rental lot, I was able to return the car and take the shuttle to the terminal. Only to find that - might flight was cancelled. And, insult to injury, they weren't able to get me out of Albuquerque until - wait for it - Monday! Two more days in Albuquerque. So, back to the rental car lot, rented a second vehicle and left the airport.

Saturday afternoon I headed back to 'The Pit', where I watched the UNM Lobos ladies basketball team play the Fresno State Bulldogs. Bonus was, because of the snow, all tickets were $2.00! On Sunday, I watched the UNM baseball team play as well - their field was adjacent to 'The Pit'.

New Mexico Lobos 63, Boise State Broncos 50

A 13-point win over one of the Mountain West's best women's basketball teams will undoubtedly look pretty good on the UNM Lobos' resume.

What Wednesday's final score - New Mexico 63, Boise State 50 - will fail to show is how easily the Lobos won in front of an announced crowd of 6,591 at the Pit.

New Mexico (16-11, 12-3) limited the Broncos to 27 percent shooting, ran past them in the open court and outscored them in the paint. The Lobos held a cushy 23-point lead with 5:38 left and effectively handled a BSU team that beat them by 21 points earlier this season.

"It feels pretty good," UNM's Bryce Owens said, smiling when asked about earning a little payback against Boise State. "Not to sound cocky or anything but this is a really good team win for us."

Antiesha Brown scored 16 points and Owens had 15 to lead UNM to its 11th straight home win and ninth in 10 games overall. No player reached double-figure points for Boise State (17-9, 9-6).

UNM remained in second place in the Mountain West race, a game behind Colorado State. The Rams won at San Jose State 85-76 on Wednesday night.

Third-place Fresno State also defeated Wyoming on Wednesday to remain a half-game behind UNM. The Bulldogs visit the Pit on Saturday.

Defense was the catalyst for the Lobos, who forced 18 turnovers Wednesday and gave the Boise State few open looks at the basket until coach Yvonne Sanchez emptied her bench in the closing minutes. BSU stayed close with five 3-pointers in the first half but went 2-for-13 from long range in the second half and was knocked out early.

"That's a team that wants to shoot 3s," Sanchez said. "They were 5-for-10 in the first half, and we knew we had to cut that off. Once we did, our defense was really phenomenal. To hold (Boise State) to 50 points, I'm really proud of our players."

It was bounce-back performance for the Lobos, who had an eight-game winning streak snapped and did not play well defensively in a 79-73 loss at UNLV on Saturday. Players credited the Pit fans for providing them with extra fuel.

"We came out with more energy and confidence," freshman Cherise Beynon said. "We love playing at home. We just dug in after that loss on Saturday and got back to playing aggressive defense."

Boise State never led but did tie the score three times with 3-pointers in the first half, the last coming at 15-15 with 8:21 left. UNM led 20-19 when a Khadijah Shumpert jumper seemed to spark the home team and the crowd.

Beynon and Owens followed with driving layups and Laneah Bryan drained an open 3-pointer during an 11-0 run that pushed New Mexico's lead to 31-19. The margin was 33-25 at halftime.

"We were beating them pretty good inside the paint," Sanchez said, "and it wasn't just our posts. Bryce, Teesh and Cherise did a great job going off ball screens and getting to the rim with authority. I thought that was a big difference."

Brown heated up early in the second half, hitting several jumpers as UNM expanded its lead. Beynon then brought the crowd to its feet with a slick fast-break basket, faking a pass to Brown and switching hands for a driving finger-roll.

"I've always had that in my game," said Beynon, who finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three assists. "I think (the BSU defenders) were so concerned with Teesh that it set me up for a good shot."

Beynon later scored on another drive to the hoop and Owens followed with a 3-pointer during a 10-0 surge. UNM led 60-37 when Sanchez began to substitute freely.

The Broncos took advantage, finishing with a 13-3 run that made the final score look more respectable, but they never made a serious push after halftime.

"I wasn't real happy with the way we finished," Sanchez said, "but I wanted to get the kids on the bench some work. It'll pay off when we need them at the Mountain West Tournament, I really believe that."

Shumpert finished with eight points and nine rebounds, going 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the foul line, for UNM.

The Broncos ended up with a 29-12 advantage in bench points but New Mexico's starters outscored Boise State's 51-21.

New Mexico Lobos 63, Fresno State Bulldogs 60

No one told Antiesha Brown she'd have to earn her Senior Day celebration, but Brown proved to be up to the task.

Brown racked up 21 points, hit a critical 3-pointer to ignite a comeback and swished four free throws in the final 27 seconds to lead the UNM women's basketball team to a 63-60 victory over Fresno State at the Pit on Saturday.

The Lobos (17-11, 13-4 Mountain West) won their 12th straight home game and prevailed for the 10th time in 11 games overall. They inched to within a half-game of conference-leading Colorado State, which was idle Saturday, and put a little distance between themselves and third-place Fresno State (19-8, 11-5). With one game to play, the Lobos can finish anywhere from the first to third seed in the league.

The win wouldn't have happened without Brown, who enjoyed one of the more memorable senior days in program history. She became the 19th Lobo to surpass 1,000 career points early in the second half.

"I couldn't think about getting sent off a better way," said Brown, who addressed the crowd, with fellow senior Maddie Muraida, after the game. "Other seniors we've had told me not to try to do too much and screw up Senior Day. I think I just played my role today."

The Lobos avenged a Mountain West-opening loss at Fresno State and have now defeated every other team in the league this season. But it took some late dramatics to pull Saturday's game out against the determined Bulldogs.

The Lobos led by as many as eight points in the first half and by seven, 32-25, early in the second. But the home team could not simply put Fresno away as it had previous Mountain West foes at the Pit.

Flustering UNM with trapping full-court defense, FSU put together a 14-2 run midway through the second half. Alex Sheedy and Raven Fox combined for 21 second-half points to help the Bulldogs turn a 39-34 deficit into a 46-41 lead with 8:39 remaining.

The Lobos looked a bit scrambled during the stretch, at one point turning the ball over five times in six possessions prior to a timeout by coach Yvonne Sanchez.

"I really kind of jumped on them," Sanchez said. "I told them we had to be stronger with the ball; start flashing to the middle, where it was open; and play smart basketball. We really just had to calm down a little bit and get back to our strengths."

Fresno State led 48-43 when Brown hit arguably the game's biggest a shot - a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim and bounded twice more off the iron before dropping in.

"That could have bounced over the backboard," Sanchez said, "but it bounced in. Those are the kind of breaks we've had at times this year. I'm not going to call it luck, though, because I think this team has earned it."

After a missed Fresno shot, Brown grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast for a tying layup. Khadijah Shumpert then converted a three-point play to cap an 8-0 run, and an announced attendance of 6,558 roared its approval.

"It felt great having that crowd behind us even with the weather," freshman Cherise Beynon said. "When we got down, the fans had our backs."

Fresno State pulled even at 52 on a Sheedy drive with 2:30 remaining, but again UNM had an answer.

Kianna Keller hit a layup and was fouled after a nice bounce pass from Alexa Chavez to put the Lobos ahead 56-53. Keller missed the free throw but Chavez rebounded it and Brown later scored on a drive to increase the lead to five points.

The Bulldogs didn't go away, hitting two late 3s to keep the game in doubt. But Brown's clutch free throws provided the final winning push.

"I think we were a little hyped up," Sanchez said, "and didn't play our best basketball. But Fresno State's a very good basketball team and they deserve credit for that. They took us out of our offense for a while there. Fortunately, we found a way to bounce back."

Brown ended the game with nine rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal to go with her 21 points. Shumpert had 15 points despite being saddled with foul trouble, and Beynon racked up 12 points, eight boards, three assists and four steals.

Starters carried the load for New Mexico as Keller's late basket accounted for its only bench points. Sheedy finished with 17 points and seven rebounds to pace Fresno State.

New Mexico Lobos 9, Utah Valley Wolverines 3

The New Mexico baseball team fell into an early 3-0 hole, but climbed back up to win 9-3 over Utah Valley at Lobo Field on Sunday.

Senior starting pitcher Colton Thomson earned his first win of the season after giving up three unearned runs on three hits in six innings. He struck out eight batters and walked three.

"I thought I was a little wild today. I picked it up later in the innings," Thomson said. "I didn't get ahead of batters; it was an average outing. It's something to build off and keep working for."

The second inning was the only one in which Thomson found himself in trouble. After a strike out and picking off a runner at first, a routine grounder by the Wolverines' Greyson Bogden turned into an error when UNM freshman third baseman Carl Stajduhar mishandled the ball.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Thomson allowed a three-run triple by UVU's Kade Andrus to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead. Thomson got the next batter to ground out to end the inning.

"There's not much you could do; my infield has been good behind me all year," Thomson said. "They hit my one mistake, and you got to live with it. We won that game, that's all that matters."

UNM (7-2) didn't answer until the fourth inning, when sophomore left fielder Danny Collier hit a two RBI double down the right field line to tie the game at three. Sophomore first baseman Jack Zoellner smacked a one-run single earlier in the inning.

In the sixth inning, the Lobos took the lead for good with an RBI triple by senior center fielder Aaron Siple for a 4-3 edge.

The Lobos added five more runs across the seventh and eighth innings for the 9-3 victory. Utah Valley (2-8) never threatened to retake the lead during the final three frames.

Junior shortstop Dalton Bowers broke out of his season-long hitting slump that saw his batting average dip to .077. Bowers went 2-4 for his first multiple-hit game of the year.

"Coach (Birmingham) just said I was really close and it was a matter of time that they started to fall where they needed to," Bowers said. "It was just a matter of time that I started to come through when I needed to."

Utah Valley starting pitcher Patrick Wolfe went just four innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits. Reliever Jake Mayer was the most effective pitcher against UNM, giving up one earned run on two hits in two innings.

UNM Relief pitchers freshman Tyler Stevens, junior Alex Estrella and freshman Hayden Schilling combined to permit three hits in three innings of work.

On Saturday UNM defeated San Francisco 4-3 by overcoming a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth.

The Lobo Invite was originally supposed to hold six games over three days, but two of those contests were cancelled due to winter conditions.

Thomas Romero-Salas is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @ThomasRomeroS.

Trip Notes:

Our seats for the Lobos game were Section E, Row 21, Seats 1-2

Tim rented a car from Alamo in Albuquerque from the 28th to the 2nd; Nissan Sentra, New Mexico tag 493SZD; total for rental was $35.68.

Tim rented a car from Budget in Syracuse to drive to Rochester on the 22nd. Chevrolet Cruze; total for the rental was $70.78.

Tim flew Southwest Airlines flight 2530, ABQ-->MDW; departed ABQ at 0845AM, arrived MDW at 1230PM.

Tim flew Southwest Airlines flight 277, MDW-->ROC; departed MDW at 245PM, arrived ROC at 520PM.

Tim stayed at the Days Inn Albuquerque, 2331 Centre Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106 on the 28th and 1st; Room 214; Total for the stay was $154.79.