Dec. 8, 2008
What: Lobos vs. North Texas
When: 7 p.m. tonight (Dec. 9)
Where: University Arena - The Pit
On The Air: 610 KNML-AM
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The big, happy Lobo family dedicated to playing team ball and liking each other on and off the court isn't just talk or hype when it comes to Don Flanagan's University of New Mexico women's basketball team.
You want proof? Check out the 7-1 record, with the lone blemish coming on the homecourt of the mega-talented Stanford Cardinal. It's quite possible that this group of Lobos isn't talented enough, isn't tall enough and is simply too young to be 7-1 going into tonight's game with North Texas.
But sometimes the scoreboard does tell it all.
"We're girls. You're going to have a little bit of stuff going on, but we don't let it effect us on the court," said senior Amanda Adamson. "There might be some personal drama or whatever between people, but when we get on the court, nobody lets that effect them." Flanagan said chemistry is a huge key for his 2008-09 Lobos because they don't have the go-to players that last year's team had in Dionne Marsh and Brandi Kimble.
Oh, Flanagan has two Lobos you probably need to watch more than the others: 6-foot-3 Angela Hartill and Amy Beggin. Beggin is averaging 14.1 points per game and Hartill is at 13.0. But this might be a team that needs to play more as a team than some of Flanagan's past squads.
"There is no, 'I got to get my points,' or 'I got to get my rebounds,' or 'I got to get my playing time,' " said Flanagan. "Everybody is willing to sacrifice a little bit for the good of the team. They are motivated to be successful. When you have everybody thinking the same way, it really helps as a coach and as a player."
A good example of how "the team" had to rally came in last week's 80-48 romp over New Mexico State. Beggin had her hands full in a defensive assignment and scored only four points. Still, the Lobos scored 80 with 6-6 Valerie Kast coming off the bench to score a career-high 18 points.
It was a classic team win. Beggin, UNM's leading scorer, put her scorer's mentality in check to play defense. Other Lobos stepped up. "As a team, everyone is committed to the team," said Adamson. "It's not like individual. It's about our team. There is no selfishness."
A good example of team balance comes in looking at some statistics. There is a difference of 0.7 points between UNM's No. 5 and No. 9 scorers. "If you took one of our top players or top scorers out of the mix, we're still going to be OK," said Flanagan. "We're playing a little bit better team basketball. We're sharing the ball a little bit better."
Flanagan said the win over NMSU was "probably our best game." Again, it was a game that reflected UNM's balance, depth and team play. The Lobos had ten players log 13 minutes or more. UNM had four players in double figures in scoring and Beggin was not one of them. It was the fourth time this season UNM has scored 80 points or more.
So, is Flanagan, a coach who loves his defense, envisioning a UNM team that simply outscores the other team? The answer to that question is, "No." Flanagan says defense can be a constant while offense -- and shooting percentage -- can come and go.
Still, he isn't opposed to a high-scoring UNM team. "I think we can score some points," said Flanagan. "Are we always going to be able to score 80 points? I don't think so. I think we may have some games where we're up in the 80s or 90s because I think we're capable of that. If we can keep teams in the 50s, we're going to be pretty successful."
So far, the Lobos already have been pretty successful and have been receiving votes in both national polls. And the 7-1 record includes some nice wins over DePaul, Nebraska and New Mexico State. North Texas is athletic enough to give UNM a test, but Texas Tech visits The Pit on Saturday and a win over the Red Raiders would fall into that "nice win" category.
The Lobos have a few other tests waiting them before the Mountain West wars begin Jan. 7 in The Pit vs. UNLV. The Lobos play host to UTEP and then hit the road for games at New Mexico State and at Texas A&M.
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