Stevens: Can Lobos Find WNIT Wonderland In Strange Pit In Oregon?
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/22/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 22, 2010

Tuesday: Lobos at Oregon, 8 p.m. MT
Where: McArthur Court/The Pit - Eugene, Ore.
Radio: 610 AM The Sports Animal
Online: Recap, Stats on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

This really isn't Lobos in Wonderland or senior Amy Beggin falling down some rabbit hole where things are a bit twisted around.

It's Lobo in the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Still, there are definitely a few twists where maybe things aren't as they should to be in this WNIT rabbit hole.

This is the Lobos' first-ever road trip in The WNIT.

The Lobo will be playing in The Pit, but this Pit is about 1,500 road miles away and located in Eugene, Ore., and not in Albuquerque, N.M. It's also a Pit about to be replaced by a multi-million dollar, new-look arena.

Soph. Nikki Nelson

"I think you have to be tougher on the road," said Beggin. "You don't have the fans or anybody on your side so it's you against everybody else and you have to really be tough and face that adversity."

OK, first WNIT road game ever; different Pit. But maybe the most bizarre thing for the UNM women will be participating in a brand of ball that is about a 180-degree turn from the kind of ball that Lobo Don Flanagan plays in his Pit.

It's not that Flanagan's Lobos walk the ball down the court. The 2009-10 Lobo actually play well in transition. But Flanagan's Lobos have been drilled in fundamental ball that includes defense, screening, patience and shot selections. They do those things even when they run.

The Oregon Ducks shoot from the hip - and often. There is no patience in what they try to do in their Pit and not always a lot of fundamentals in the way they attack or the way they run. That's why they have lost seven of their past eight games. If the Ducks brick, they are in trouble.

"They are up and down and hurry up and score so we can get the ball back," said Beggin. "We haven't played a team like Oregon all year long and maybe not ever in the four years I've been here.

"I think we're excited for up and down and hopefully we can put a lot of points on the board."

Said Flanagan: "I don't think the score is going to be in the 50s."

One key to beating the Ducks is to break down their pressure and outshoot them, because you probably can't control their pace.

If you want to compare them to better-known teams, they are kind of like the Hobbs Eagles, the Washington Huskies (men), or maybe the Los Angeles Lakers of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar - the Laker team that averaged 115 points per game and won an NBA title.

There is a good reason for this run-and-gun background. They are coached by Paul Westhead. Yeah, that Paul Westhead. The Westhead who won an NBA title, won a WNBA title and put Loyola Marymount on the map with a program that once averaged 110 points per game.

Westhead's style is to get down the court, take a shot, and then press no matter if it's a make or a miss. It's attack the basket and then attack the ball.

In his first year at Oregon, he probably doesn't have exactly the style of players he needs to make his system work, but he's running the system anyway.

It worked nicely in Oregon's first-round WNIT win over Eastern Washington - a 95-66 romp. It was the seventh time the Ducks scored 90 or more. They average 81.8 points.

Against Eastern Washington, Oregon had five players hit double figures. Micaela Cocks led the way with 16 points and Amanda Johnson chipped in 15. The Ducks made 52.2 percent of their shots and hit six 3-pointers.

The key was that 52.2 percent. When you hit at that rate, defense isn't always that important. But can the Ducks blister the nets at that rate facing a Lobo team that has leaned on defense all season?

"They score a lot of points," said Flanagan. "They have given up quite a few points. They press the whole game and shoot at will. It doesn't seem like he's told anybody not to shoot.

"We have to be prepared for transition offense, full-court pressure defense, and do it for 40 minutes."

The Lobos have some proven runners in starters Beggin, Amanda Best, and Sara Halasz. There is quickness off the bench in top subs: Lauren Taylor, Nikki Nelson, Georonika Jackson and Porche Torrance.

The sad thing about this game is that there is no TV and the only media link is on 610-AM.

"This game would have been a lot of fun for our fans to see," said Flanagan. "It's going to be up and down. (We) are going to have a hard time defending them. Hopefully, we can come down and hit a few shots."

The Lobos shot well (44.8 percent) in advancing 66-51 past Southern Methodist Wednesday in the Albuquerque Pit. Halasz scored 17 points and did a lot of damage out of transition. "She is getting more confidence and expanding her game a little bit more," said Flanagan of Halasz.

UNM also gunned in eight 3-pointers vs. SMU. There should be plenty of 3-point opportunities for Lobos in the run-and-gun pace at Oregon. UNM has shot 356 treys so far this season.

Flanagan says if his Lobos win at Oregon, they probably will stay on the WNIT road and not return to Albuquerque for the third round. "This is the first time with the WNIT that we've been on the road, so I guess its fair from that standpoint," he said.

"I don't like their travel plans for us, but it's not our tournament. We have some tough games on the road next year, so this is a preview of next year."

The preview is the travel, the road games, not the style UNM might have to adopt Tuesday night in a foreign Pit. Flanagan's Lobos might run in 2010-11, but they might never run again like they run with the Ducks.

"It's going to be fun," said Beggin. "I'm excited for another game. Anytime I can play another game in a New Mexico uniform, I'm really excited. Hopefully, we can keep going for a little bit more.

"I don't think we're ready to be done yet. If you can go out and win a couple of games in the NIT, it proves that you are a good team and you've had a great year. And it's fun to play other teams and get different styles and see new faces."

It probably will be best if the Lobos are looking at the Ducks' faces. If the Lobos are looking at the other side - the back side -- the Lobos might be in trouble. These Ducks plan to fly by you.