STEVENS: Lobos' Tickets To Top 20 Could Be Punched With Upset of Texas A&M
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/28/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 28, 2008

Lobo Basketball
Lobos at Texas A&M
When/Where: 6 p.m. Tuesday -- College Station
On The Air: 610 KNML-AM
Online: GameTracker; All Access (live) on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The red-hot Lobos have cracked the Top 25, but is it possible that their ticket into the Top 20 could be punched Tuesday with a win at Texas A&M? Why not? A win at College Station would give UNM a gaudy 12-1 mark and also would give the Lobos a win over a ranked school on the road. That would be huge.

It also might be a difficult upset to pull off. To put the degree of difficulty into perspective, a win at A&M would go down as the greatest road win in Lobos' history.

It also might go down as the biggest upset in UNM history and surely would be classified as the greatest non-conference win in Lobo history. UNM's biggest upset to date was a 74-65 Pit win on Nov. 30, 2001 vs. No. 8 Texas Tech.

Of course, this is a University of New Mexico team that already has made some history. The Lobos' 11-1 start is the program's best ever. So, hey, what's the big deal about knocking off the A&M Aggies on their home court?

Make that the undefeated (10-0) A&M Aggies.

Make that the undefeated, No. 3-ranked Aggies.

Make that the undefeated, No. 3-ranked Aggies, who outscore their opponents by 19.7 points.

"Probably every kid at every position is going to be faster than us," said Lobos coach Don Flanagan. "And when they crush a team, they can get you pretty good." The Aggies crushed Texas State in College Station by 49 points, but TCU of the Mountain West Conference lost by only 14 points, 64-50 at A&M.

"They have met all their challenges. They are undefeated," said Flanagan. "They are very fast, very athletic, very aggressive and you are going to get a full-court press the entire 40 minutes.

"I think that makes them even better at home because they are going to be feeling comfortable and they try to make you uncomfortable. If you start turning it over, you might be in trouble."

The Aggies are athletic enough to put a lot of points on the scoreboard, but they hang their cowboy hats on defense. They hold opponents to 31 percent shooting from the floor and 17.5 percent from behind the line. The Lobos go into the game shooting 41.7 percent from the field.

The Aggies' defense is based on talented and quick athletes getting into your face and pressuring shots, but it also is based on the enemy hurrying shots once they finally get past all that A&M full-court pressure. Flanagan simplifies his offensive strategy by saying, "I'll be happy if we can get it across half court and get a shot; a good shot would be great."

A key player for UNM vs. A&M will be Lobos junior point guard Amy Beggin. She'll be in charge of breaking the Aggies' press and then getting UNM into a half-court offense against additional A&M pressure. Beggin said she's excited about playing a ranked team on that team's home court.

"To get better, you have to go out and get tested," said Beggin. "This is a good test. They'll be pressing us the whole game. It's a great challenge for us."

The last time the Lobos went on the road and got challenged by a ranked team, it wasn't too much fun. UNM went to Palo Alto, Calif., and got drilled 84-46 by Stanford, then ranked No. 8.

"That loss made us work harder," said UNM senior Amanda Adamson. "We have a lot more confidence now. We've gotten better. We're more comfortable with our offense and with our defense and we're excited to play a ranked team again. A&M is good, quick and a bunch of tough girls. We`ll have to do everything right."

Said Beggin: "The Stanford loss was a good lesson for us. We came back and worked on doing all the little things right." One thing the Lobos need to do right at College Station is to control the tempo while taking advantage of cracks A&M provides while furiously throwing itself at Lobos.

"If you can slow it down and get them to play at a different speed, you have a better chance," said Flanagan. "I would prefer not to run with them, but at the same time, we have to take advantage of getting shots in transition. If their speed is overwhelming, we'll have to try to out execute them and change defenses on them."

UNM's visit to College Station marks the Lobos` final non-conference game before opening up MWC play in The Pit on Jan. 7 vs. UNLV. The Lobos are on an eight-game win streak.

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 articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner