Feb. 1, 2009
Sunday: Utah 53, Lobos 50
Up Next: Lobos at Wyoming, 7 p.m., Wednesday
By Richard Stevens Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The ending was kind of nightmarish. The Lobos were dashing to the finish line, about to hand the mighty Utah Utes their first Mountain West Conference loss of the season and the Lobos stumbled, crashed, hit a wall, walked into a bad dream. No finish line for the Lobos.
"You have to finish," said Lobo Coach Don Flanagan. "That was the problem with that game. I don't think we were as mentally tough as they were. It showed at the end. We had control of the game and all of a sudden it was gone. "
The Lobos, up 48-42 with 2:13 to play and up 50-45 with 1:23 to play, turned the ball over on two of their final four possessions and forced a bad shot on their last possession allowing Utah to steal a 53-50 win.
"They just kind of took it away from us," said Lobo point guard Amy Beggin. "It seemed they wanted it more in the end."
Said Flanagan: "My hats off to them. They looked like the best team in the conference and they won."
The Lobos were giving the Utes a lot of credit after Utah's win and rightfully so. The Utes hung in there, hung tough, and made big plays and big shots at the end. But the Lobos played a nice game, too, and appeared headed toward a win. Then came the crash.
Senior Amanda Adamson put UNM up 48-42 at the 2:13 mark with two free shots. Utah came back with a layup by Katie King to cut the gap to 48-44. UNM then lost the ball on an offensive charge by Angela Hartill on a drive down the baseline. That turned out not to be so bad, as Utah's Morgan Warburton turned the ball right back to UNM and Beggin raced in for a layup and a 50-45 UNM lead with 1:23 to play.
King scored again in the paint with 55 seconds to go and the Utes were a 3-pointer away from a tie. They got it when UNM lost the ball near midcourt and Utah's Kalee Whipple made the Lobos pay with a 3-pointer that tied the game at 50-all. "That was really disappointing," Flanagan said of the turnover near half court. "But it's not one play that loses a game."
The Lobos brought the ball in with 29 seconds to go. Utah made a good move on defense placing the 6-foot Whipple on the 5-6 Beggin. Beggin dribbled Whipple into the lane and then forced a shot over the taller Ute that was short with about 15 seconds to go. "I thought I had her beat a little bit, but she got back on me," said Beggin.
Utah got the rebound and Warburton used the broken court to find an open seam and tossed up a running 3-pointer with six ticks to play. It fell. The Utes had their 53-50 win. "That was a big hill for us to climb," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott, referring to her team being down by five points with 1:23 to go.
Flanagan said he was tempted to call another timeout in the final seconds, but was content with the ball in Beggin's hands. "There probably was a better shot, but I'm not sure who was going to take it," said Flanagan. "It was kind of a forced shot, but I'd just as soon have her take it. "Utah just made the big shots. They have two very fine players and they (Utah) don't lose their composure."
The loss dropped UNM to 16-4 overall and 5-2 in league play with both losses coming in The Pit. "We have to make sure now we don't have any more slip ups," said Flanagan, whose Lobos play at Wyoming on Wednesday and at UNLV on Saturday. "This is going to be a tough week."
Said Beggin: "We have a tough second half of our conference. We need to think about winning every game."
The Lobos ended the game with two players in double figures: Hartill with 13 and Beggin with 11. Adamson had nine points and led UNM in rebounding with six. The Utes beat UNM on the boards 31-to-28. Warburton scored 18 for Utah and had a huge game under the glass with 14 boards. Whipple scored 12 points with seven rebounds. King added 11 points.
"I do not think it was a mental lapse," said Hartill of losing the game down the stretch. "We wanted to finish the game really bad. It was just small errors that sometimes happen in a game."
The Lobos grabbed a 27-21 halftime lead and at the 15:25 timeout of the second half that gap had not changed. UNM led 33-27. The Utes slowly chipped away, making it 39-38 on a 3-pointer by Halie Sawyer at the top of the key. The teams carried that 38-38 score into a media timeout with 7:43 to play. Beggin had not scored a field goal since the 17:33 mark of the first half.
Utah finally grabbed the lead back at the 6:21 mark went King got loose under the basket and rolled in a left-handed layup to push Utah up 40-39. Hartill quickly got the lead back for UNM on a similar drive to her left. The UNM senior also got fouled, hit the free shot, and UNM was up 42-40. The play got The Pit ignited again and Utah turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation. Beggin popped in a 15-footer and UNM was up 44-40. The Pit stayed loud and Utah turned it over again, this time on a walk.
Adamson extended the Lobos' lead to 46-40 on a jumper near the free throw line that bounded high off the back of the rim, but gave the Lobo senior a favorable drop. Utah called a timeout at 4:03, down six points to Lobos in The PIt. The Utes got a bucket from Warburton and at the final media timeout of the game, UNM was up 46-42 with 3:22 to play.
Lobos got a break at 2:27 when Beggin missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the Lobos got the rebound. That board ended up with Adamson hitting two free throws and giving UNM its 48-42 lead at the 2:13 mark. Utah's King shook loose underneath at 1:59 and rolled in a layup as she was fouled by Best. King made the free shot and the Utes were down 48-45. Hartill came down and drove the baseline hard and was called for an offensive charge. Utah's Warburton had a pass tipped at the other end and the loose ball ended up in Beggin's hands. She drove for a layup and the Lobos were up 50-45.
King threw up a left-handed hook to make it 50-47 and the Utes' were a 3-pointer away from a tie. UNM then had the turnover near midcourt and Whipple made UNM pay by knocking in that trey from the left side. Game tied 50-50 and UNM was bringing the ball in with 29 seconds to play. Then Beggin missed her shot over Whipple and Warburton ended up throwing in the winning trey.
The Lobos fell behind Utah early in the first half 16-10, but the UNM defense frustrated Utah in the final 10 minutes. The Lobos outscored Utah 17-to-5 in the second half of the first half and often the Utes' offense was battlling the shot clock and failing to get good looks. Freshman Sara Halasz popped in a 3-pointer from the left side to give the Lobos their 27-21 halftime lead.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner