STEVENS: Lobos Need To Stay In Front of Quick-Draw Aggies
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/29/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 29, 2009

Wednesday: Texas A&M at Lobos, 7 p.m., The Pit
On The Air: The Mtn. (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616); 610-AM
Online: GameTracker, video streaming, stats on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Be careful of what you wish for.

OK, it wasn't exactly a Don Flanagan Christmas wish. However, the Lobo coach did say there were going to be a couple of games this season when his Lobos were going to have to score right along with their opponent. So, he didn't mind some of those high-scoring Lobo wins.

That just might be the case Wednesday night when the No. 10 ranked Texas A&M Aggies step into The Pit surely hoping that the Lobos will want to run-and-gun with these quick-draw artists from College Station.

The tempo thing might not be in question. The Aggies run. The Lobos run. UNM has scored more than 80 points in its past five games. A&M averages 82.6 points for all games.

What Flanagan is hoping to control is which side of the Aggies his Lobos are looking at during any and all A&M runs. If Lobos are looking at Aggies' backsides, UNM might be in trouble.

"We want to stay in front of them," said Flanagan.

The Aggies are at their best when they are harassing, pressing, badgering and turning mistakes into easy buckets. The Aggies love to steal the ball and make layups. They love dribble-drive penetration that leads to short jumpers and layups.

The Aggies love layups -- which means the defense is looking at their backsides.

"We have to be concerned with their quickness," said Flanagan. "They score in spurts. You can be playing right with them and all of a sudden, they are ahead by 15, 18 points. We'll have to get quick timeouts in those situations."

Flanagan's Lobos have a few goals for A&M's visit. Run a patient, efficient offense. Be smart on offense, on defense, with the ball. Don't give A&M anything easy (layups!). Don't give them the ball in the backcourt.

Actually, that's kind of what Flanagan coached teams usually do. But the level of play jumps up Wednesday on the Bob King floor. The Aggies are Top Ten. They hammered the Lobos 83-51 last December in College Station.

Flanagan might have summed up the Aggies best with this quick burst of praise: The Lobo coach said A&M has talent, quickness, athleticism and scoring. "This is the best team we've played this year," he said.

Not to take anything away from the power of The Pit or the Lobos ability to win in The Pit, but a good ending for the Lobos might simply to be close to A&M on the scoreboard in the closing minutes and let that Pit magic kick in.

As far as preparing Don Flanagan's Lobos for some of the run-and-gunners in the upcoming Mountain West Conference wars, Texas A&M might be the perfect mix, plus a few extra ingredients.

The No. 10 ranked A&M Aggies appear to be a combination of San Diego State and TCU. Arguably, the ranked Aggies are better than both those two MWC teams. But the Horned Frogs did slap on A&M's only blemish -- 56-54 in Fort Worth.

The Aggie's 54 points has to give the Lobos' encouragement. The Aggies' loss also gives UNM hope. "If you got a loss, you are beatable," said Flanagan.

TCU used a quick zone to quiet the A&M guns, take away some of the dribble-drive stuff, and pester the A&M long shots. Flanagan says Texas A&M's ability to hit from the 3-point range makes him question how much he can go zone. "I'm not sure we can play a zone the whole game against them," said Flanagan. "Texas A&M is shooting 47 percent from the three. That's not a zone candidate for me."

Also, a team has to have time to fall back into a zone. "Their transition game is as good as we're going to play this year," said Flanagan.

The Christmas break allowed the Lobos some needed healing time. Senior Eileen Weissmann has returned to the practice floor and is expected to play against A&M. Senior Amy Beggin, who scored 19 at A&M last year, has rested her sore ankle, but Flanagan says that's a pain issue that could last the entire season.

"Workouts aggravate it," said Flanagan of Beggin`s injury. "It's probably season long. I need to get her out a little bit and against Texas A&M, it's going to be even harder because they're going to press.

"He has eight or nine or ten kids, who are all quick and are all aggressive and they'll press. They'll press half court. They'll press full court. They press full-court man. They vary their types of presses."

Beggin paces UNM with a 15.5 scoring average. UNM also gets double figures from Lauren Taylor (12.3), Sara Halasz (11.1) and Amanda Best (10.3). The good news for UNM is that's a lot of Lobos for A&M to worry about. The bad news is A&M has a handful of tough and quick defenders. The Aggies are paced by Tanisha Smith with a 17.3 scoring average.

"Where they really separate themselves from other teams is stealing the ball and getting into transition, beating you down the floor," said Flanagan. "They also like pull-up jump shots. They have players like New Mexico State only they are taller, bigger and better athletes."

"If we can keep them in front of you, you are better off than letting them go by you. The tempo is going to be fast and we`re not going to be able to play as fast as they do."