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Stevens: Injury Bug Adds Question Marks To Flanagan's Lineup
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/08/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 8, 2010

Lobo Women's Basketball In The Pit
Tuesday:
7 p.m., Vs. Western New Mexico
Friday: 7 p.m., Vs. Texas Tech
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Stats, LoboTV

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Has the injury bug that has been haunting football coach Mike Locksley moved over to pester Don Flanagan's Lobos in The Pit?

The UNM coach might be asking himself that question considering the blows that have hit his squad even before they get to toss up a basketball in the shiny, new Pit Tuesday night in exhibition action against Western New Mexico.

And if you consider the smaller roster Flanagan is working with, there is no question a high percentage of Lobo talent will be missed in 2010-11. Consider:

  • Flanagan lost Nikki Nelson to a season-ending knee injury.
  • Ditto for Sarah Halasz, one of the top players in the Mountain West.
  • And Jessica Kielpinski walks around in a plastic cast on her left foot when not on the court. So, does it hurt to play on, Jess? "Yes," said the 6-foot-1 senior.

    Flanagan was looking to throw together a Lobos puzzle this season, massaging in a lot of young Lobos with a few returning veterans. That puzzle is now more complicated, and the Lobos only have the single exhibition to play with before Texas Tech invades The Pit on Friday night.

    Western is coming to Albuquerque with a game under its belt, but that 83-52 spanking by Northern Arizona was not a feel-good game for the Mustangs. They committed 39 turnovers against NAU which turned into 44 enemy points.

    Shatwa Morris, a Las Cruces Mayfield High product, led Western with 18 points. The 5-foot-6 guard is the top returning scorer from last year's 7-18 squad. Western¡¦s Morgan Wohltman had 13 points and six rebounds.

    The Mustangs kicked the ball around too much against NAU, but this also is a height-challenged team with no players taller than 6-foot.

    Injuries always, well, hurt, but the losses -- and the limp -- hit the Lobos in the two areas Flanagan said were keys to success in 2010-11: the point and the paint.

    Nelson was a strong candidate to run the point before she went down. That forced Flanagan to move senior Amanda Best from the wing over to the point. Best is good up front, but now Flanagan is minus one of the top off-guards in the conference in Halasz.

    However, Flanagan still has one of the best off-guards in the conference in Best. So, do you move Best back to the perimeter's edge and give the point to 5-5 freshman Brianna Taylor?

    Flanagan probably has no choice but to give Taylor a lot of real action at the point along with Best. When Taylor is at the point, expect to see Best on the wing. Kielpinski is tough as nails, but her damaged foot might give more early playing time to backup posts, 6-5 Emily Start and 6-4 Erin Boettcher.

    Hey, who said it was easy being a D-I basketball coach? Especially with the schedule placed in front of these young Lobos. "This is the most aggressive schedule that we have put together in my tenure," said Flanagan.

    That means Flanagan is going to have to make some quick decisions after Western New Mexico's visit. Most likely, those decisions will change a few times prior to the 2011 MWC season kicking off on Jan. 8 in The Pit vs. Wyoming. The Lobos were picked in the preseason MWC poll to finish sixth.

    Halasz was UNM's top returning scorer. That loss obviously is a serious blow, but there is a lot of promising talent on the wings. That talent needs to step up even quicker now that Halasz is out.

    Junior Lauren Taylor is solid and proven on the wing. She has a nice first step to the basket and can bang in the 3-pointer. She has young help from 5-10 Tina Doughty, 5-7 Jasmine Patterson and 6-foot Caroline Durbin.

    The No. 4/forward spot has good depth behind Porche Torrance, Jordan Unverzagt, Chinyere Nnaji, Jourdan Erskine and Morgan Toben. Of course, there might be a question Flanagan needs to throw at that group that he hasn¡¦t asked yet:

    "Can you play the point?"

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