March 17, 2010
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There is no doubt that there is something about The Pit that brings out the best in Don Flanagan's Lobos. Maybe there is something about the WNIT, too.
The Lobos played some of their best ball in the 2009 Women's National Invitation Tournament and did the same Wednesday night in The Pit in stomping the Southern Methodist Mustangs, 66-51, in first-round action of the 2010 WNIT.
"I like what we did. I liked our offense," said Flanagan after the 15-point romp that pushed UNM into the WNIT's second round. UNM (19-12) will play at Oregon at 8 p.m. (MT) Tuesday.
The Lobos looked smooth, polished and motivated in almost every aspect of the game and in almost every Lobo.
"If you don't win, you go home. That's a big part of it," said Lauren Taylor, who came off the bench to knock down two big treys and finish with 13 points.
"Said Sara Halasz, with 17 points and five boards: "It's motivation to keep playing, to keep going."
The Lobos get to keep going, but Flanagan's Lobos don't yet know the who, the where or the when.
The Lobos 13th straight postseason appearance turned into an easy win thanks to solid UNM defense and several timely offensive spurts that pushed them past the Mustangs in front of 1,944.
The Lobos came out of the half up by five points and steadily pulled away from the Mustangs. A layup by Taylor at the 4:29 mark put the Lobos up 61-43 and a Valerie Kast jumper handed UNM it's biggest lead of the game, 64-43 with 3:56 to play.
"In the first four minutes of the second half, we really wanted to come out and outscore them," said Flanagan.
"We had a lot of people who contributed and that's what you want in a game like this. It's nice to beat a good team. I was pretty happy with the way the team carried things out."
Halasz and Taylor were joined in double figures by Kast with 13 and Amy Beggin with 10. Beggin also had six assists, no turnovers and two steals.
UNM shot 44.8 percent from the floor and 47.1 percent from behind the line. SMU shot 28.8 percent and went 0-of-17 from 3-point range
"They are a decent 3-point shooting team, too," said Flanagan. "We did foul them too much and put them on the free-throw line." SMU went 17-of-19 from the charity line to 6-of-9 for the Lobos. Both teams were called for 10 fouls apiece in the 40 minutes of non-stop action.
The Lobos played well in their half-court sets, but also had some timely points out of transition. "Sara was doing well in transition," said Flanagan. UNM got 29 points off its bench. SMU's bench did not score.
"I was happy with transition, happy with the defense and very happy with the shooting," said Flanagan.
The Lobos were just coming out of their Mountain West season and out of the MWC tourney in Vegas. "It was nice to see someone new," said Taylor.
Second Half - Lobos 34, SMU 24
The Lobos opened the second half up by five and extended it to 40-33 at the first media break (15:32). Halasz scored on a fast break and got fouled on a fast break, making two free throws to put UNM up 44-33. Amanda Best got a layup to keep the lead at 11, 46-35, going into the media timeout at 11:57.
At the 8:25 mark, UNM was still guarding that 11-point lead. This time 51-40, formed on a Kast trey from the southwest baseline of The Pit. At the 7:07 media break, UNM had kicked their gap over the Mustangs to 54-41 on a 3-pointer by Porche Torrance.
Taylor then did some major damage to the Mustangs. She knocked in a trey and followed that with a layup on the baseline to hand UNM a fat 59-43 lead. Taylor struck again on a layup off a Beggin pass. Taylor added a free throw and it was 62-43. Kast flipped in a post shot and the 64-43 UNM lead had SMU calling a timeout -- much too late to do anything about this Pit stomping.
At the 3:12 media break, UNM was up 64-45 and cruised to the 66-51 final.
First Half -- Lobos 32, SMU 27
The Lobos had a good shooting half at 41.9 percent from the floor and 50 percent from behind the line. SMU stayed close going 11-of-11 from the free-throw line to 2-of-4 for UNM.
The Mustangs won the board battle 24-20. SMU was 0-of-11 from behind the line and UNM was 4-of-8. Halasz and Beggin had eight points and Kast had six points. Halasz had five rebounds.
The Mustangs went up early 8-5 on two free throws by Jillian Samuels. UNM then went on a little run.
Jessica Kielpinski banged in a trey followed by a Halasz drive and layup. Kielpinski got a steal on the other end that led to Beggin missing a layup in transition, but Halasz got the follow: 12-8. Halasz slipped open inside for another layup and UNM was up 14-8. It was a 9-0 Lobo run. SMU's Brittany Gilliam ended the run with two free throws: 14-10.
The Lobos ran away again. Kast tapped out a loose ball to Beggin behind the line. The senior drained her second trey. Beggin then stole a ball near midcourt, fed a cutting Halasz, who tossed it back to Beggin for a layup. SMU called time, down 19-10.
UNM's run was now 12-2. Halasz made it a 14-2 run with a baseline dash that put the Lobos up 21-12.
Kast flipped in a left-handed hook, which was followed by two Samuels free throws, and UNM was up 25-18 at the 7:47 media break.
Taylor got two free throws at 6:21 to extend UNM to 27-18. Taylor hit a three at 5:44 to push the Lobos up by ten points, 30-20. At the 4:16 mark, Samuels hit three free throws to cut UNM's lead to 30-25. At the 3:40 media break, it was still 30-25. The Lobos took the 32-27 halftime lead off a Kast layup.