Feb. 12, 2010
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The question for the Lobos really isn't which Kalee Whipple will show up for Utah to battle Lobos in The Pit: The Whipple who scored 11 against the Lobos in Salt Lake City or the Whipple who scored 45 points in a four-overtime loss to TCU.
Well, it would be nice if the 11-point Whipple would show up, but the Lobos have other players to worry about: namely Lobos.
The Lobos who showed up to post wins at Brigham Young, vs. TCU in The Pit and a stunner at San Diego State are one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference. The Lobos who lost 65-59 to the UNLV Lady Rebels Wednesday night in The Pit aren't so tough.
"We need to play a more aggressive game," said Lobo coach Don Flanagan.
Yeah, aggression is a good game, especially with the backing of The Pit to provide extra energy and that Sixth-Man advantage. Flanagan wasn't happy his Lobos didn't use that edge against UNLV. That edge surely will be back Saturday. This is Utah. This is Elaine Elliott. This is Lobos with their backs to the MWC wall again.
The Lobos might be looking at a leg-weary Utah team in The Pit. The Utes had to run up and down for an extra half -- four overtimes -- vs. a fiesty Horned Frog group. Utah lost 105-96.
"You amost consider that two games, or a game and a half," said Flanagan, who said he doubted if the Utes' did any sprint work after dropping one at home to TCU. "Elaine will have them ready. She does a nice job. She has a group of players who are very disciplined.
"I think emotionally that was a very difficult game (for Utah) to lose. That was a tough loss for them. I hope (Whipple) is tired."
At this time of the season, teams might do some minor tinkering, but they pretty much dance with who brung 'em. The Lobos like to run some in The Pit and score out of transition. The Lobos can be a good driving team behind Sara Halasz, Lauren Taylor and Amanda Best. The Lobos sometimes are fearsome in the paint behind Eileen Weissmann and Jessica Kielpinski.
The Lobos get leadership, hustle and 3-point bombs from Amy Beggin. When all that stuff shows up at the same time, the Lobos beat team like BYU, TCU and SDSU. Flanagan said his Lobos are trying to push the UNLV game out of their minds and focus on what makes them good. That would be a good thing against the Utes. Utah, like most teams, likes to knock down Lobos in The Pit.
"I think we get everybody's best effort when they come to The Pit," said UNM's Amanda Best. "Utah always comes in wanting to beat us. They have given us a few punches over the past few years, so we're hoping we can give them one back."
A key to hitting Utah with any punch is throw a defensive rope around Whipple. This Ute is good.
"She's a guard who is six-foot, 6-foot-1. She doesn't have many weaknesses," said Flanagan. "They run things for her. They do a nice job working to get her free."
If Lobo fans want to have some fun watching some action away from the ball, watch Whipple and the Lobo guarding her. The Utes run her throught two, three, four, five screens on a set. If the other Lobos on the court spend too much time watching Whipple, the other Utes will drive the ball.
Saturday's game is UNM's WBCA Pink Zone game. New Mexico will be wearing new pink uniforms Saturday in support of breast cancer awareness. Fans are encouraged to wear pink Saturday.
It also is Youth Day with all tickets for kids (18-and-under) going for $2. The Lobos carry a 14-8 mark into the game and stand 6-4 in MWC play. The Utes are 13-9 and 4-5 in league play. The Lobos still have an outside shot at challenging for a title. The Utes are battling for seeding in the upcoming MWC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Another key for UNM vs. the Utes is something you could call "the pause button." That's a stretch in a game when UNM is struggling to score and often that struggle has something to do with aggression and confidence.
"We're back to being really positive with them (Lobos) and getting as much confidence as we can," said Flanagan. "(Against UNLV) I didn't think we played hard enough during a period of time. We're not a good enough team to do that. We can't play with a pause in our game."
In UNM's loss at Utah, the Lobos were up 28-19 at half. Then someone turned on the UNM "Pause Button." The Lobos shot 10.7 percent (3-of-28) in the second half. The Lobos' defense wasn't too bad, but Utah -- and Whipple -- scratched out the win. Weissmann was the only Lobo to score double figures (10) in Salt Lake City.
The Lobos can't let that happen again. "We're going to come out strong," said Best. "We really need to win this game."