"It feels good to get in the locker room with everyone smiling and having an overall good game," said Sanchez.
The Lobo women committed a season-low seven turnovers and forced Air Force into 19 while allowing the Falcons just 18 points in the first half – the second time UNM (7-14, 1-6 MWC) had done that against an opponent this season.
The Lobos got scoring from 10-of-11 players and produced a season-high 19 assists and grabbed 13 steals from Air Force (5-17, 0-7). The Lobo bench also played a big part, outscoring the Falcon reserves 20-2.
"Lauren (Taylor) comes off the bench--and she could easily start for us--but she comes off the bench because she gives us spark and she scores," said Sanchez. "Lauren has a knack for scoring and I know that she didn't shoot as well as she would have liked to today, but she went in there and hit some free throws. Even with Lauren not hitting a field goal, Ashley (Rhoades) comes in there and goes 2-for-2 and Emily (Stark) comes in there and goes 3-for-6 and we get to the free-throw line. When we get other bench points that's what you really want."
The Falcons came in and tried to play a physical game against the Lobos, but only succeeded in getting themselves into foul trouble, picking up 23 personal fouls to UNM's 14 and having to players - starting forward Dymond James and back-up post Megan O'Neil, who earned the enmity of Lobo fans with her physical, at times straight up dirty, play.
"You definitely have to be like that at the college level, if you even want to get open you have to," said Durbin of the physical play. "If you're going to be a shooter, you have to like the contact."
UNM opened with a 7-2 burst and absorbed a 4-0 Air Force run before going on a 13-6 run to take over the game. Aided by poor shooting by the Falcons, the Lobos pushed the lead all the way to 33-13 and took a 37-18 lead into halftime.
Air Force started the second half with 6-0 run, but Sanchez called a timeout and UNM came out focused on its full court defense and kept the Falcons at bay.
"I thought it worked out well and starting in our 3-2 press worked out well, too because then you're up and you're moving around and not going back and waiting for your player," said Sanchez. "Moving around a little bit more helped us just to get back to not having a slow start in the second half. And again, we gave up two fast-break baskets so I called a quick timeout because I didn't want to see our lead dwindle."
Sanchez and her players now say they are focused on playing well in the second half of the season, starting Saturday when UNM welcomes Boise State to The Pit for a 2 p.m. game.
"We need to keep the same passion and intensity to win," said Durbin. "Just because we won doesn't mean we can relax. A lot of the games that we played on the roads were not our best showings, but now that we're home a lot more, we're excited to get more wins."
UNM began MWC play with a 65-46 loss at Boise on Jan. 11, a game in which Sanchez said her team "didn't play well and they played extremely well.
Durbin said a similar start to the Air Force game was a key.
"The most important thing is that we get off to a fast start," said Durbin. "We have to make the initial contact and not let them get us on our heels. We're going to play hard like we did tonight, and if they (the fans) want to watch a team play hard and get a win they should be here."