Jan. 26, 2010
Wednesday: Lobos at Brigham Young, 7 p.m., Provo, Utah
On The Air: 610-AM KNML; BYU-TV
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, stats, game story
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
On their flight to Salt Lake City and on their bus ride to Provo, Utah, hopefully the New Mexico Lobos paid for the extra bag and inserted a dozen or so jump shots into that piece of luggage.
If not, the Lobos` defense is going to be carrying some extra baggage once again.
Jump shots, 3-pointers -- heck, even layups -- haven't made the Lobos' packing list on their last two trips into the heart of the Mountain West Conference road.
The Lobos shot 29 percent at Colorado State and lost 67-60. The Lobos shot 26 percent at Utah and lost 46-40. UNM is now 11-7 overall and 3-3 in league encounters.
The encouraging thing about the losses at CSU and at Utah is that in spite of dismal shooting games, the Lobos were only a few buckets away from a victory. And they were in both games down to the wire. The effort was good. The defense was good. Even the execution was good enough.
But the shots didn't fall enough.
"I thought we had some good shots (vs. CSU)," said Lobo coach Don Flanagan. "If you can't hit your outside shot, you have to understand that you have to attack the basket. Either you are going to get a free throw or you get an easier shot."
Two of the Lobos who best attack the basket are Amanda Best and Sara Halasz. Their aggression might be a key for UNM pulling out a win Wednesday night at Brigham Young, especially with hard-driving Lauren Taylor still on the injured list.
One thing is certain: a Lobo team in search of a jump shot couldn't come up with a tougher MWC path to walk.
The 13-4 BYU Cougars are atop the MWC standings, tied with TCU at 4-1. The Lobos return to The Pit Saturday to play TCU, possibly the most talented team in the league. Then the Lobos visit a San Diego State Aztec team that pounded UNM in The Pit 61-39.
Tough road. Tough teams to shoot lights out against.
"We have three of the best teams in the conference that we are going to play back-to-back-to-back," said Flanagan. "We have to toughen up. We'll see how we respond.
"BYU just beat San Diego State by ten points. BYU has the best team I've seen them have in about ten years. TCU is probably the most talented and then we have San Diego State which is probably the most athletic."
The good news is the Lobos probably don`t need to shoot lights out at BYU in order to win. They just need to shoot better.
The Cougars are not a team that is going to out-talent UNM, but they definitely are a well-coached team that could out-execute and/or out-shoot the Lobos.
BYU is balanced with Jazmine Foreman scoring at a 10.3 clip and Mindy Bonham averaging 11.5 points per game. Cougar Haley Hall is at 8.2 and Kristen Riley is at 8.9. This definitely is a team UNM can hang with -- if the Lobos' shots don't hang on the rim and fall off.
"I think it's just confidence," said Lobo senior Amy Beggin. "We just have to step up and knock them down. I think we are close. We just need to keep battling and keep going hard.
"Eventually, we're going to start knocking down some shots."
Flanagan said his Lobos are taking sort of a bunker mentality into this triangle of trying games.
"This is us against the world," he said. "We're not playing up to our potential, so all of us need to get together and be focused and play up to our potential.
"That's all I'm looking for right now: Play up to your potential."
The Lobos have played close to their potential in many aspects of the game. They can be a decent rebounding team. Their defense has kept them in games they could have been blown out of. Their offense often is efficient and they usually get good looks at the basket.
But UNM is shooting 34.5 percent from the field in MWC games and 26.2 percent from the 3-point line. That's good for the No. 7 spot in both categories out of nine MWC teams. BYU is No. 1 in the league in field goal percentage at 44.9 percent.
"I think basically it's mental," said Flanagan of his team`s shooting.
The Lobo coach also is giving his Lobos something to think about as they head toward Cougars, Horned Frogs and Aztecs.
"We just have to understand that we have to play up or be on the bottom," he said.