STEVENS: Valerie Kast has Career Night in Front of Mountain West TV Cameras
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/04/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 4, 2008

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Lobo Basketball
Lobos 80, New Mexico State 48
Up Next: Lobos vs. North Texas, Dec. 9, The Pit

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Maybe Valerie Kast was simply waiting to be a big TV star. If so, her timing was perfect.

It was lights, camera, action and zoom in on the 6-foot-6 Lobo from Gallup as she destroyed the New Mexico State Aggies with a career-high 18 points, a career-high five blocks and a career-first post-game interview in The Pit.

Kast worked the Mountain West cameras like the girls from "Desperate Housewives" work the ABC cameras. She worked the Aggies, too, as did most of the Lobos in the University of New Mexico's 80-48 romp over the rivals from Las Cruces.

"That was a lot of fun," said Kast. "I feel like I did really well and I feel I should play like that every night."

Said teammate Angela Hartill: I'm so proud of Val. She really deserved this night. She really played well."

Kast's numbers were impressive, but maybe even more impressive when you consider she threw up those stats in only 17 minutes of play. The junior shot 8-of-10 from the floor and was a big part of UNM gunning at a 53.6 percent on the night.

"We don't always shoot that high a percentage," said Flanagan of his UNM team that went into Thursday night's game in The Pit shooting .388 percent. "Of course, Valerie shooting 8-of-10 from five feet really helped us.

"She (Kast) didn't just play good offense. She played good defense. She kept her hands up. She is starting to understand what we need from her. Obviously, if she comes around, she makes us a lot better team."

Kast went into the NMSU game with 11 field goals on the season and came out with 19. She had been averaging 3.7 points.

The pre-game hype centering on the showdown between UNM's Amy Beggin and NMSU's Madison Spence was only hype when it came to the scoring column. Beggin scored four points and Spence scored seven -- 10 below her season's average. The Aggie sophomore went 3-of-9 from the floor and seemed flustered by the pressure defense from Beggin.

"That's Amy," said Flanagan. "Amy did a great job (on Spence). I don't think you can keep her down under double figures very often."

The Lobos ran to a 36-17 halftime lead and kept NMSU at bay throughout the second half before rolling to the 80-48 win. UNM is now 7-1 on the season and the Aggies fall to 3-4. The Lobos shot 58.6 percent in the second half.

"We played probably our best two halves of the season," said Flanagan. "We wanted to keep them under 50. We did a nice job there."

Kast was joined in double figures by Hartill with 15 points and Lauren Taylor and Sara Halasz each had 11 points. Jessica Kielpinski came off the bench to pull down seven rebounds to share the game-high honors in that category with Beggin. UNM had 24 assists to eight for NMSU. Kast led the Lobos' block parade as UNM had nine blocks on the night to three for NMSU.

The Aggies went 18-of-56 from the floor: 21.4 percent in the first half and 42.9 percent in the second half to finish at 32.1 percent. The Lobos' defense was excellent in the first half and frustrated the Aggies into numerous poor shooting decisions that allowed UNM to go into the locker room up by 19 points.

The Aggies came out of the break and seemingly found a shooting touch in their locker room. They hit four of their first five shots. But the Lobos went 3-of-5 and at the 15:29 timeout the Lobos still had their 19-point lead thanks to a Taylor trey.

The Aggies simply weren't going to pull this game out on the offensive end alone. They needed a whole lot of stops against the Lobos. They weren't getting many. When UNM's Georonika Jackson went baseline for a reverse layup to put UNM up 49-30, NMSU called a full timeout.

UNM's Amanda Adamson came out of the break with a strong post move that led to a turnaround jumper high off the backboard. UNM was up 51-30. A Beggin steal led to a UNM fast break that Halasz finished to put UNM up 55-35 with 11:42 to go.

The Aggies made another little run and a trey by Danisha Corbett cut UNM's lead to 61-45. Flanagan was up and calling a timeout with 8:48 to play. The score stayed there going into the 7:56 media time.

Kast then hit two free throws and then a wide open layup to make it 65-45. Kielpinski hit a short jumper to slide UNM up 67-45. Another Kast turnaround and UNM was rolling at 69-45 and The Pit crowd of 8,139 rose to its feet in appreciation of the Lobo from Gallup and the 24-point lead. UNM coasted to the 80-48 win.

The Spence/Beggin showdown appeared to be doomed from the game's beginning. UNM's inside attack was effective behind the quick moves of Hartill and the power moves of Kast. Hartill ended the half with 11 points and Kast had six in the closing minutes.

The NMSU's drive-and-shoot philosophy was heavy on the drive and light on the shoot. The Aggies shot 6-of-28 from the field with Spence going 1-of-5. Beggin had three points, but ran down six rebounds in the half.

The Lobos held a slim 10-7 lead with 11:55 to play before UNM started to slowly but steadily pull away. A nice fast-break bucket on a pass from Taylor to a breaking Halasz put UNM up 19-10 and NMSU called a timeout. Taylor came out of the break to go coast-to-coast for a layup that made it 21-10 and then she hit a trey from the right side of UNM's offense to push UNM up 24-12. "Lauren did a nice job," said Flanagan.

Kast came off the bench to give the Lobos an inside burst in the closing minutes with her six points. UNM rolled into the locker room sitting on a fat 36-17 lead. The Lobos were shooting 13-of-27 from the floor for a solid 48.1 percent. UNM also controlled the boards 21-to-15. UNM had ten assists in the first half to one for NMSU.

The Lobos' next game is Dec. 9 in The Pit against North Texas. The Lobos' rematch with NMSU in Las Cruces is on Dec. 20.

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