March 25, 2009
What: Women's National Invitation Tournament
Where: Santa Ana Star Center -- Rio Rancho
Wednesday: Lobos 54, Nebraska 43
Up Next: Lobos vs. Oregon State, 7 p.m. Friday, Santa Ana Star Center
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
RIO RANCHO -- Home sweet Rio Rancho? Yeah, for a night that's how it was for the University of New Mexico Lobos as they embraced the Santa Ana Star Center like a mini-Pit and hugged Rio Rancho like a mini-Las Vegas.
And the Lobos get to do it again.
The defense-minded Lobos mugged the Nebraska Cornhuskers 54-43 Wednesday night at the Star Center and earned the right to be the Rio Rancho Lobos one more time. UNM will play host to Oregon State at 7 p.m. Friday on the same floor in round three of the WNIT.
"It was kind of like a Pit game," said Lobo coach Don Flanagan, referring to the rowdy crowd of 4,499. "I want to encourage fans to come out for Friday's game. Once you find the place, it's a heck of a place to play."
Said Amy Beggin, who led all scorers with 25: "I thought our crowd kind of carried us through this game. We have the whole state behind us. If we are playing a game, they are going to be here."
The Lobos snuggled into the Santa Ana Star Center because The Pit was turned over to a rodeo for the weekend, but the Lobos didn't really look out of place Wednesday night -- especially on defense. UNM held Nebraska to 23.4 percent shooting on the night, 20.8 percent in the second half. The game really wasn't as close as the score suggested.
The Lobos led 28-23 at the half and 37-33 with 14:32 to play. UNM then outscored 14-to-1 to grab a 51-34 lead with 4:39 to play. UNM also led 54-38 with 1:18 to play. "For the most part, we got more people open the second half," said Flanagan.
Yeah, kind of, but mostly those Lobos were Beggin and Angela Hartill, who scored all but two of UNM's 26 second-half points. Georonika Jackson spoiled that Beggin-Hart parade by scoring a field goal with 1:18 to play. Hartill finished with 18 points.
"It's not that were telling those players they are the only ones who can shoot," said Flanagan
"I thought both those guys (Adamson, Best) were big on the boards," said Flanagan. "Once we got into our zone, they (Nebraska) had some problems against it and we started controling the game. Our effort was excellent."
The Lobos actually were supposed to see their first road game in this 2009 version of the WNIT, but so far that hasn't happened -- and it might not happen. If the Lobos continue to ride the Star Center to victory, The Pit becomes open again next week. Well, if the Lobos want to return home.
Technically, you have to call the Star Center a neutral site, but that might be like calling Johnson Center a neutral site. The classy and glassy arena, located on the Northwest edge of Rio Rancho lured in 4,499 red-clad fans and that wasn't Nebraska- red dominating the seats.
It was, however, Lobos dominating the red-clad Huskers. The Lobos outrebounded Nebraska 45-36, had fewer turnovers, more assists and outshot the Huskers from the floor.
You have to wonder if Nebraska pulled out the wrong scouting report for the Lobos as the Huskers continued to let the Lobos' top guns, Beggin and Hartill, shoot them down from various angles on the court. "We were trying to get Angela (open) on the outside," said Flanagan. "Obviously, she hit some big shots. Amy did an excellent job of breaking their press and hitting big shots, too."
The win raised UNM's record to 24-10 while Nebraska fell to 15-16. The Lobos have one day of preparation for Oregon State, but it's possible the Beavers have been taking a closer look at UNM expecting the Lobos to win on their home turf -- well, at the Star Center.
We have the whole state behind us. If we are playing a game, they are going to be here."
Junior Amy Beggin on 4,499 fans that showed up for Nebraska game
Said Beggin: "It was an exciting atmosphere out here. Our crowd was awesome and we were playing well as a team and we want to keep doing that as long as we can."
Nebraska's Cory Montgomery, who led the Huskers with 17 points, pulled her team to 37-33 with a trey. Beggin then bounced in a high shot off the glass to make it 39-33 and UNM began its run.
Beggin scored in transition to make it 41-33. Hartill then slipped outside and banged in a trey off a Beggin pass and Beggin quickly added a breakaway layup to push UNM up 46-33. Another Beggin layup followed by a Hartill trey off a Jackson pass made it 51-34.
Beggin said she didn't think the quick turnaround for Oregon State would be a problem for the Lobos. "We just had a whole week of practice, so we are looking forward to a game," she said. "We'll be ready to go."
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