STEVENS: Flanagan Could Have Picked An Easier Road Opener For His Lobos
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/20/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 20, 2008

Lobo Basketball
Lobos at Stanford
When: 8 p.m. (MT), Thursday (Nov. 20)
Where: Palo Alto, Calif.
On The Air: 610-AM KNML
Online: GameTracker; Live Broadcast Via All Access on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Place Lobos coach Don Flanagan in front of a map of the U.S., blindfold him, spin him around a couple of times, and let him throw a dozen darts into the waiting target.

Oh, try to point him away from Connecticut, away from Oklahoma, Rutgers, Cal-Berkeley, Baylor. Hot spots like that. But let him wind up and give the darts a toss.

Chances are the missiles could have found Flanagan and his Lobos a more favorable place to open their 2008-09 road season than Palo Alto, Calif., -- home of the No. 8 ranked Stanford Cardinal, who last week were ranked No. 2.

"The first road game we got, we're going to Stanford?" said Flanagan. "We could have gone somewhere else. I don`t want to name any schools, but I could have named a lot."

Basically, Flanagan could have named any school not in the Top Ten and probably found a site more conducive to a UNM win. The Cardinal played in the 2008 National Championship game and although Stanford lost All-American Candice Wiggins, the Cardinal are still loaded. They were bumped into the No. 8 spot after losing at No. 9 Baylor, 81-65.

"I don't want to criticize them at all," said Flanagan. "I don't want anything on their bulletin board about what I said. They are missing one great athlete (Wiggins) that they had last year, but they have four of their starting five back again and they are very physical, very talented, execute very well, are well coached.

"Maybe not as athletic as last year, but they are young and I think eventually they are going to be one of the top five teams in the nation."

Flanagan's Lobos might not be in the Top Ten like Stanford, but UNM does have something the Cardinal don't have: a perfect record. The Lobos are 3-0 after winning the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Tournament in The Pit.

UNM beat a solid DePaul team 68-66 in the title game behind Angela Hartill's 17 points and Amy Beggin's clutch play down the stretch. Beggin made a running layup with 2.8 seconds left to hand her Lobos the come-from-behind win.

Hartill led the Lobos in scoring during the tourney. Hartill is hitting 60 percent of her shots from the field and 89 percent of her free throws.

"Angela Hartill has the potential to be All-Conference," said Flanagan. "She is really playing very well. She'll get a lot of attention (from other teams)."

It will be interesting to see how the 6-foot-3 Hartill does against the inside talent of Stanford that goes 6-4, 6-4. It's important for the Lobos to get points from Hartill because she is the main threat inside and a good game from her in the paint opens up the perimeter more for the Lobo long guns.

The win over DePaul should boost UNM's confidence for the trip to Stanford, but Flanagan knows his team absorbed a lot of energy from The Pit. Flanagan says in Palo Alto that energy has to come "from within."

"Any time you win, it gives you a little confidence," said Flanagan. "I don't think this team is ever going to be over confident because we're not one of the most talented teams in the country. But if we have the right attitude and give the right effort, we can play with those teams.

"It was terrific that their character showed (vs. DePaul), that they came back and they had the determination to win that game. They very well just could have given it up."

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