March 5, 2011
By Chelsea Einerwold, Writer/GoLobos.com
The University of New Mexico women's basketball team finished the regular season with an overtime win over the Air Force Academy, 73-70, on Saturday afternoon at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The Lobos head in to post-season play with an 11-17 record overall and 5-11 record in Mountain West Conference play. The Falcons finish 8-21 on the regular season and 3-13 in MWC play.
With the win, New Mexico secured the No. 7 seed for the 2011 Conoco MWC Women's Basketball Championship tournament to be held at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. next week, March 8-12. New Mexico will face the No. 6 seed San Diego State at 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT on Tuesday evening.
Senior Amanda Best was phenomenal in her final regular season game, leading the Lobos with 20 points and 21 rebounds. Best also dished out three assists, stole the ball four times and committed only three turnovers in 45 minutes of play.
Best's career-high 21 rebounds ties for tenth-best on New Mexico's all-time list for most rebounds in a game. She shares the distinction with Dionne Marsh, who had 21 boards on January 27, 2007 against UNLV.
In a post-game interview with 610 AM The Sports Animal, Lobo head coach Don Flanagan couldn't say enough about his senior leader.
"The key to this game was Amanda Best--twenty points and 21 rebounds as the point guard," Flanagan said. "I told the rest of the team, `Look, there's a senior that is showing you the way. How about the rest of you? You've got to go get rebounds, you've got to get back on defense, you've got to pull your weight and knock down inside shots.' I hope they learned something from Amanda's performance because she gave a heck of a game.
March 8-12 - Las Vegas
No. 4 CSU vs. No. 9 USAF, 3 p.m
No. 5 Utah vs. No. 8 UNLV, 5:30 p.m.
No. 6 SDSU vs. No. 7 UNM, 8 p.m.
Game A: CSU/USAF vs. Utah/UNLV, 5:30 p.m.
Game B: No. 3 Wyo. Vs. SDSU/UNM, 8 p.m.
No. 1 BYU, 1 p.m. vs. Game A winner
No. 2 TCU, 3:30 pm., vs. Game B winner
Championship, 2 p.m.
"You can't ever fault her effort. She gives a great effort all the time. She's guarding their best player (Raimee Beck), she's a point guard getting more rebounds, by far, than anybody else and she's scoring points for us. She did a heck of a job."
The Falcons were led by Dymond James and Alicia Leipprandt who combined for 50 of Air Forces' 70 points. James had 26 points and 13 rebounds while Leipprandt contributed 24. The Falcons' leading scorer (11.4 points per game season average), Raimee Beck, was held to eight points.
The Lobos took a 2-1 lead just under two minutes into the game off a Best jumper and stayed ahead of the Falcons until the 14:11 mark in the first half when a bucket by Beck put Air Force up 11-10.
With 9:52 remaining in the first half, the Falcons had increased their lead to eight points, 22-14. The Lobos used a 6-0 run that lasted over two and a half minutes near the end of the half to tie the game at 36-all with 1:05 remaining. Air Force's Liepprandt hit a jumper with 22 seconds remaining to put the Falcons up by two points, 38-36, at halftime.
In the first half, New Mexico shot 37.5 percent on 15-of-40 shooting from the floor, while Air Force shot a hot 57.1 percent, hitting 16-of-28 attempts.
"I was pretty disappointed in our effort early," Flanagan said. "They beat us down the floor and attacked the basket. I gave a pretty fiery halftime talk. I'm not accustomed to doing that--I don't do it very often."
Whatever Flanagan said, worked.
With 16:29 remaining in regulation, the game was tied at 40-all. Over the next six minutes, Air Force used a 9-2 run to attain its biggest lead of the afternoon. With 10:19 to go in the second half it was Air Force 49, Lobos 42.
By the 7:48 mark, the Lobos had pawed their way back with a 7-0 run, tying the game for the fourth time at 49-49.
Air Force then rattled off six points in less than a minute via a layup and four free throws to make it 55-49.
The lead changed hands three more times in the waning minutes of the second half. With 1:14 remaining in regulation Beck put in a layup to put the home team up, 61-59, but seconds later Kielpinski was fouled by James and went to the free throw line for a one-and-one.
Kielpinski sank both free throws, tying the game for the sixth time at 61-61. Each team had possession in the final 48 seconds of regulation, but neither could capitalize and the game went into overtime.
Twenty seconds into OT, a Best-Kielpinski connection put New Mexico up 63-61, but the Falcons quickly answered on the other end with a Lieppardt layup.
With 2:02 to go in overtime, Air Force's Beck sank a 3-pointer to put the Falcons up 70-67. With 1:13 remaining, Air Force turned the ball over, giving the Lobos a chance to set up their offense. New Mexico allowed 19 seconds to pass before Best got a good look at a layup. Her attempt didn't fall, but she grabbed her own board and granted the Lobos a fresh shot clock.
With 38 seconds remaining in overtime, freshman Jasmine Patterson beat her defender and finished the drive to put New Mexico within one point--70-69. The Falcons didn't have possession of the ball long as moments later, it was Patterson making things happen for the Lobos again. The quick guard stole the ball and did what she does best--drove the lane and finished, giving New Mexico a 71-70 lead with 13 seconds to go.
The Falcons got one last possession, but turned the ball over. Air Force fouled Best with just seconds left in the game and the senior finished the game with two free throws, making it 73-70 in favor of New Mexico.
As a team, New Mexico shot 33.8 percent from the floor on 26-of-77 shooting, while the Falcons connected on 43.5 percent of their attempts with 27-of-62 shooting. Both teams had 45 rebounds. The Lobos forced the Falcons to commit 19 turnovers, which resulted in 17 points off turnovers for New Mexico.
The seventh seeded Lobos will face the No. 6 seed, SDSU at 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT on Tuesday, March 8 in the opening round of the 2011 Conoco MWC Women's Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For information on the tournament, visit www.themwc.com.