STEVENS: Aztecs Plan To Pass UNM's Beggin Around Like a Baton in a Relay Race
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/20/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 20, 2009

Lobo Basketball
Lobos vs. San Diego State
When/Where: 3 p.m. (MT), Saturday, San Diego
Radio: 610-AM KNML

Online: GameTracker, live streaming on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

San Diego is a city well known for a good run. Usually, that run might be along the shoreline, across a sandy beach, or maybe through the rolling hills that color this city like ribbons in hair.

Lobo Amy Beggin has gone to San Diego to run in a gym. To be more accurate: Beggin has gone to be chased in a gym. And chased and chased and chased.

"They are all over the place," Beggin said of the fast and fleet San Diego State Aztecs. "You feel like you have beaten one of them and all of a sudden there is another one coming at you and then you have to try and beat them all over again."

The strategy Lobos coach Don Flanagan expects the Aztecs to throw at his Lobos is nothing new. He expects they will hound Beggin all over the court and try to wear down UNM's leader and most consistent scorer.

"I don't think it's going to work," said Beggin. "A lot of people get tired before I do. It will take a lot to wear me down. I can go 80 (minutes). I can go 100, if I have to."

The thing about the Aztecs that is a bit different than most teams is they have enough quick and talented bodies to keep throwing a fresh chaser at Beggin. For the Aztecs, this "Chasing Amy" thing is kind of like a relay race. Beggin is the baton. SDSU tries to pass her from Aztec to Aztec to Aztec.

"They will relay defend her," said Flanagan. "They'll have three defenders, who will relay defend her with one going four minutes then the next four minutes and so on.

""Everyone's strategy has been to pressure Amy and chase her all over the place. We can't just have Amy doing all the work breaking the press. She has to have some help. Hopefully, I can do it (rest Beggin) a little early. You want Amy in late. She has to be in late."

The Aztecs have a lot of weapons in 2009 beginning with their quick, full-court press and ending inside with 6-foot-4 Paris Johnson. Johnson burned the Lobos for 17 points and 11 rebounds in SDSU's 57-52 win in The Pit on Jan. 21.

"She is probably the best big player in the league and the best athlete (inside) by far," said Flanagan of Johnson, who is No. 4 in the MWC in both scoring (15.3) and rebounding (8.6).

Johnson's presence inside is huge for the Aztecs because it forces teams to sag on the big Aztec allowing SDSU gunners to find open spots. But can the Aztecs hit those open shots? Flanagan says, at least early, UNM might test the sights on the SDSU guns.

"I think your best bet with them is you see how they shoot the three and you try to take other things away from them," said Flanagan. "You hope that they're not hot. If they are hitting, then you make adjustments.

"With this team (SDSU), you say, `You got to beat us from the outside.' Because we're going to defend the interior (Johnson) and defend the drive. They are so quick that they can break you down, if you get out too far from the basket."

Flanagan's Lobos definitely are in a tough place in the MWC standings and have a few tough spots to visit prior to the MWC Tournament March 10-14 in Las Vegas. UNM is 7-4 in league play behind 11-1 Utah, 9-3 TCU and 8-3 SDSU. The Lobos play at TCU on Wednesday (Feb. 22) and at Utah on March 4.

The top two seeds in the MWC tourney get byes to the semis and the No. 3 seed gets a first-round bye. All other teams are looking at winning four games in order to be MWC tourney champs.

"That's a difficult stretch," said Flanagan referring to UNM's final five MWC games featuring three road trips against the league's top three teams.

The Lobos take a two-game win streak into San Diego with Pit wins over Air Force and Brigham Young. But a win at SDSU would be on a higher scale.

"We have to go out and make a statement," said Flanagan, who said his Lobos are playing better than the UNM team that dropped three straight to Utah, Wyoming and UNLV.

"A lot of it has to do with confidence and I think there is a little bit more determination right now. We could have won any of the games that we lost. We just didn't do it. We have to win the close games now.

"Right now is the time when you can't be unsuccessful. You have to go out and give it your all and make like this is the last game of the season."

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.