Stevens: Lobo Women's Basketball -- 2010-11 Season Review
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  04/01/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

April 1, 2011

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Lobo Women's Basketball -- 2010-11 Season Review

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In a season filled with injury, position shifting and inconsistent shooting, Don Flanagan's Lobos almost threw out a Mountain West Tournament ending that would have washed away most of the frustrations of the 2010-11 season.


The chemistry and the heart of this young Lobo team surfaced in a big way when the up-and-down Lobos stepped into the Las Vegas Thomas & Mack Center to make a final push at postseason play.

The Lobos squared off first against a San Diego State team that was muscled with some of the top talent in the MWC. New Mexico got 21 points from freshman Jasmine Patterson and 19 points and 11 boards from senior Amanda Best to beat (65-57) the Aztec team that had beaten the Lobos twice during the regular season.

The Lobos did pretty much the same thing the next day in Vegas as they outplayed the No. 3 seed Wyoming team that had swept UNM during the regular season. The 67-61 upset was marked by solid execution on offense -- four double-figure scorers -- and outstanding effort on the defensive end.

"We played very well against San Diego State and even better against Wyoming," said Flanagan. "San Diego State was loaded with talent and Wyoming had one of the more complete teams in the league."

The two MWC tourney wins pushed UNM into a meeting with the No. 2 seed, TCU, and the Lobos' door to the NCAA tournament was slammed shut, 60-41. The Horned Frogs beat the Lobos on the boards 46-33 and UNM hurt itself by shooting 23.7 percent from the floor.

IT was that inconsistency in the Lobos' shooting touch that damaged UNM time and time again during the 2010-11 campaign. "Our shooting hurt us in the last game," said Flanagan. "We were never able to develop an offensive game inside and you don't want to rely on your outside shooting as much as we had to."

The Lobos approached the 2010-11 season looking at a perimeter game that should have been among the best in the league.

Then Nikki Nelson and Sara Halasz were lost for the year with knee injuries. Then Flanagan had to start massaging his lineup with wholesale movement and calling upon younger players, who were moved into roles and minutes they probably would not have seen in 2010-11 had it not been for the hurt factor.

The expected lineup for this season was Nelson at the point and Halasz and Best on the wings. The injuries to Nelson and Halasz impacted three positions because all three spots lost a player. The point lost Nelson. A wing spot lost Halasz. The other wing spot lost Best, who had to move to the point.

So, Flanagan turned into a juggler as much as a coach.

"We were bothered a lot by having to move people around," said Flanagan. "Amanda did a great job at the point and toward the end of the season she was a very good point guard. But we were hurt early by not having a bona fide point guard with experience.

"And when you move that many people around, you lose your ability to be a consistent team, and that especially shows up in close games down the stretch."

The Lobos had some signature wins throughout the season, including their two wins at Vegas, a sweep of New Mexico State, a victory over Lamar, and regular-season wins at UNLV and TCU. "When we played well, we won," said Flanagan. "But we were never consistent."

There were too many "almost wins" in the season. The Lobos lost in two overtimes to Oklahoma State and let a win slip away 63-60 at Oklahoma. UNM was swept by Utah, 56-53 and 61-58. They lost 64-62 at UTEP and lost 56-53 at San Diego State. Like the Lobo men, there were too many close games that ended up on the "L" side of the won-lost column.

"We were close enough to beat a lot of teams, but we couldn't find ways to win the close games," said Flanagan. "I think our youth was a factor and our lack of scoring inside was a factor. We could handle people inside defensively, but we had trouble scoring inside.

"We had one stretch that hurt us and there were a lot of frustrations during the season."

The Lobos lost nine of ten games from Dec. 4 to Jan. 22. They ended the season 7-7 on their way to a 13-18 year. It was UNM's first losing season in 15 years and the first time in 13 years that Flanagan`s Lobos failed to march into postseason play.

"It was a season in which we spent too much time searching for ways to be successful and it took us a while to figure that out," said Flanagan. "I still think we should have done better."

One place the Lobos did well at was the gate. The Pit loyals rolled into University Arena at an average of 7,677 per game. That was good for the No. 6 spot in the nation and UNM's best gate since the 2007-08 season.

Senior Jessica Kielpinski

It also was a season in which Mountain West honors came to three Lobos. Junior Porche Torrance was placed on the All-MWC Defensive Team and Patterson was All-MWC honorable mention. Best was placed on the All-MWC third team and probably deserved a higher nod.

The 6-foot senior had an outstanding season, especially considering her move from her true spot on the wing to the point. She grabbed her first MWC Player of The Week honors this season after a week of good work that included 20 points and an amazing 21 rebounds at Air Force. Best finished the season with her name among the Top Ten in five MWC categories.

She started 31 of 31 games, tied with Patterson for the team's top average at 11.2, and led UNM in rebounding with an 8.0 average. She was No. 3 in the MWC in defensive boards and was one of the top rebounding point guards in the nation.

"Amanda had a good year for us," said Flanagan. "She had to make a major adjustment and kept improving."

Of course, the season ended on a sad note as Flanagan announced his retirement after 16 years as UNM's head coach. He will leave the Lobos as the program's all-time winningest coach. He also has left a foundation and a culture that makes this position one of the best coaching jobs in women's basketball.

The Lobos' goals for next season and for the next Lobo head coach are easy enough to evaluate. Get more scoring inside. Stay healthy. Play better defense. Win more games. Return to postseason play.

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.