STEVENS: Lobos Battle Wyoming Cowgirls for No. 4 seed in MWC tourney
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/06/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 6, 2009

Lobo Basketball
Lobos vs. Wyoming
When/Where: 2 p.m. Saturday -- The Pit
Radio: 610-AM KNML

Online: GameTracker on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The drama and the consequences of a game against Wyoming aren't as impacting for the Lobo women as it is for the Lobo men. If the women beat the Cowgirls in The Pit, the Lobos take the No. 4 seed into the Mountain West Conference Tournament. If they fall, they are No. 5.

No big deal? It just depends on how you look at the MWC bracket and who you want to play. The four seed opens the MWC tourney in Vegas with a 2 p.m., Tuesday clash against Air Force. The five seed opens at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday against Colorado State.

The Falcons are 4-24 and probably will finish the MWC race at 0-16. The Rams' regular season is over. They sit 9-20 and 4-12. The Rams are tall and deep and have potential. The Falcons are, well, likely to be 0-16.

"You can't assume anything, but the matchup favors us against Air Force," said Lobo coach Don Flanagan.

The Lobos swept both the Falcons and the Rams. But UNM beat Air Force by a combined 80 points and only beat CSU by a combined 30 points - eight points in Fort Collins. If the Rams eliminate taking bad shots while incorporating some defensive pride into their game, they could be a solid tourney team.

It would be better for UNM to open the MWC tourney against Air Force, which happens with a win over Wyoming. "You have to careful about who you want to play in a tournament," Flanagan cautions.

After Round One, the Lobos might not have any choice in who they play in Vegas. Most likely, UNM's path to the title game will go like this: Air Force/Wyoming/Utah. The Utes, as the No. 1 seed, got a bye to the semifinals.

On the other side of the bracket, Brigham Young and UNLV will battle to see who plays TCU and San Diego State in the quarterfinals and semifinals. So, if you were the Lobos, would you rather be looking ahead to Wyoming/Utah or anticipating TCU/SDSU? The Lobos probably matchup better with Utah than they do SDSU and maybe even TCU.

But since the Lobos don't like to look ahead, let's look ahead to Saturday's clash with Wyoming in The Pit.

Besides being a game with minor seeding consequences, it's also a farewell party for Flanagan's two seniors: Angela Hartill and Amanda Adamson.

"I can't believe its gone by this fast," said Hartill. "It's kind of unreal. It hasn't hit me yet."

Said Adamson: "Our fans are phenomenal. It's unreal. Nothing compares to it. I would have never expected in a million years that it would be like this. It's so awesome. I couldn't even explain it to someone. You have to play here (to understand). I'm so thankful for the fans."

The Pit fans might come in handy against the Cowgirls. Wyoming has won five of its past six games , three straight, and are coming off a confidence-building overtime win at Brigham Young. The Cowgirls also have beaten the Lobos three straight.

The Cowgirls might not be fast or flashy, but they get it done with fundamentals, patience and physical basketball. They beat the Lobos 52-50 on Feb. 4 in Laramie, fighting back from a 12-point UNM lead at the half.

"Wyoming is very, very good at controlling the ball," said Flanagan. "So, a fast start is important. We don't have to get out to a 10-point lead, but we don't want to get down points.

"Wyoming does a nice job of running their half-court offense. If they have the lead, they are pretty good at sitting on the lead and getting a good shot."

The Cowgirls prefer a slow tempo and a slow scoreboard. Wyoming is led in scoring by 6-3 Hillary Carlson at 11.7 points followed by 5-11 Kristen Scheffler at 10.7 and Megan McGuffey at 10.6. Wyoming also has a hot/cold scorer on the bench in Emma Langford.

The Lobos are led by 5-6 Amy Beggin with a 14.9-point average and 6-3 Hartill at 11.4. The Lobos sometimes are too much of a two-gun show, but UNM does have role players with the talent to light up the scoreboard.

An up-beat tempo might favor UNM in The Pit, but Flanagan said, "There's nothing we're holding back. Whatever it takes, we're going to try and do it. We want to go into (MWC tourney) on a positive note. It's important we conclude our season playing well at home."

Said Hartill: "I think we're playing good. We're ready to go and this is the time of the year we want to play up to our potential and everyone is determined to do that."

The Lobos' ticket to the NCAA tourney might have to be punched in Las Vegas, which also is a ticket back to The Pit. If the Lobos make the NCAA Tournament, they'll play their first NCAA game in University Arena.

"Wyoming is not going to be our last time (in The Pit) because we are going to play here for the NCAA Tournament," said Adamson.

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.