Stevens: Lobos Roll Rams 67-54, Advance To Play Utah Utes
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/09/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 9, 2010


2010 Mountain West Conference Tournament
Tuesday: Lobos 67, Colorado State 54
Wednesday: Lobos vs. Utah, 5:30 p.m. (MT), Thomas & Mack Center
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By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It's New Mexico vs. Utah, Amy Beggin vs. Kalee Whipple, Don Flanagan vs. Elaine Elliott, tradition vs. tradition, and do-or-die for both teams.

The only way this thing could be any better is if it was a Mountain West Conference championship game instead of a MWC quarterfinal tussle.

In the be-careful-what-you-wish-for department, it will be decided Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. (MT), whether Beggin's wish for UNM's quarterfinal opponent is a good thing for Lobos or not so good.

Of course, the wish really had nothing to do with whom the Lobos would play in the second round of the Mountain West Conference tournament. This clash was probably part destiny and part bracket.

The Lobos used a Beggin-fueled run down the stretch to beat Colorado State 67-54 Tuesday in the Vegas Thomas & Mack Center. UNM moves on to play the winner of Tuesday's Air Force vs. Utah game.

Of course, that's Utah -- arguably, probably, definitely, the Lobos' most bitter rival in the conference. Beggin, out with a head and neck injury, did not play in UNM's Pit loss to Utah. "That was hard to watch," said Beggin.

Beggin won't be watching Wednesday against the only MWC team that swept the Lobos during the 2010 season and knocked UNM out of the 2009 MWC tourney. The Utes got 24 points from Taryn Wicijowski and 16 points and 12 boards from Kalee Whipple to power past 3-27 Air Force, 63-40.

"I think everybody on our team remembers what happened last year when we played (Utah) here," said Beggin. "We haven't beat them in a long time. I think we're looking forward to that matchup.

"If somebody on our team can't get fired up -- we're really fired up for this game. I think it will be a good matchup and hopefully we can just kind of break through that barrier and get a win this time."

The Lobos were paced by Sarah Halasz with 20 points and six boards and Beggin with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. CSU got 16 points from Chatil Van Grinsven, 13 from Kim Mestdagh, and 11 points from Meghan Heimistra.

The Lobos shot a solid 42.1 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point line. UNM won the board battle 38-to-31.

The Lobos came out of the break up by seven and got back-to-back treys by Halasz and Eileen Weissman to go up 41-28. CSU, down by 11 points, called time.

"Coach just came in (at halftime) saying keep the momentum up," said Halasz. "Keep working hard, keep pushing and keep attacking them, don't let them get easy opportunities, just keep pushing at them."

The Rams pushed back and came at the Lobos hard. The Lobos answered most of the CSU punches. Still, with under nine minutes to play, CSU had cut UNM's lead to 54-49. A Beggin turnover let the Rams cut it to 54-51. Flanagan called a timeout with 8:01 to go.

At 7:02, Beggin went to the line and knocked down two: 56-51. Mestagh hit a trey over Halasz to make it 56-54. Beggin hammered in a long trey to push UNM up 59-54. Beggin scored again to make it 61-54. Beggin again: 63-54. UNM was up by nine, Beggin was on a 7-0 run, and CSU called time with 4:30 to go.

"I think those points I got were a credit to my teammates," said Beggin. "They did a great job of setting me up and making it pretty easy for me to get some baskets. I do like to maybe make something happen when things aren't going right."

Weissman probably sealed the deal for UNM with a long set shot that handed UNM a 65-54 lead. The Lobos took that 11-point bulge into the final media break at 2:53. They held off the Rams for the 13-point win. CSU did not score a point after pulling to 56-54 with 6:41 to play.

"I think defense is something that has been consistent for us all year long," said Beggin. "Some games we haven't shot very well. Our offense has been a little stagnant.

"Defensively we've been a pretty strong team all year long. I think that's something we need to continue to do in the tournament if we want to stay in games and something we need to do to be successful."

The win pushed UNM to 18-11 on the season.

First Half -- Lobos 35, CSU 28

The Lobos got 11 first-half points from Halasz and three blocks and six points from senior Valerie Kast to grab the seven-point lead. The Lobos rallied from a 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) start from the floor to end up 12-of-29 (41.4 percent).

UNM used a 12-0 run to pull out of a 14-10 hole into a 22-14 lead and raced to the 35-28 halftime score. CSU shot 33.3 percent in the first half. UNM won the board battle 20-18.

The Lobos ran to a quick 5-4 lead fueled by a short jumper by Halasz and a 3-pointer by Beggin. CSU got buckets from its top two scorers: Van Grinsven inside and Mestdagh outside. At the first media timeout at 15:26, UNM was up 8-6 on a 3-pointer by Halasz.

The Rams threw out a 7-2 run to take a 13-10 lead into the 11:35 media break. UNM was 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) from the floor. At the 8:45 mark, CSU called time nursing a 14-12 lead. UNM pulled within two points off two free throws by Kast. At that mark, UNM had six turnovers and four field goals, 4-of-17 for 23.5 percent.

At the 6:41 media break, Beggin had hit a 15-footer to knot the game at 14-all. UNM had the ball on a Porche Torrance steal. That led to two free throws by Beggin. The All-MWC senior made both and UNM was up 16-14. When Taylor added a 3-pointer, UNM was up 19-14 and on a 9-0 run. CSU called time.

The Rams missed and Beggin found Halasz for another trey: 22-14. Van Grinsven finally broke the UNM run with a single free throw: 22-15. Jackson drove the lane and pushed UNM up 24-15. The Lobo run was 14-to-1.

Mestdagh then drove, scored and got fouled. She made the free one to pull CSU to 24-18. UNM turned it over which led to CSU's Meixandra Porter at the line going into the final media break at 3:39. The Lobos' shooting had warmed up to 33.3 percent, 8-of-24. Porter made both shots: 24-20.

Best missed inside for UNM, but got banged and went to the line. Best hit two: 26-20. Mestdagh and Heimstra then hit treys sandwiched around a Halasz trey and it was 29-26 in UNM's favor.

Kast did some good work for UNM down the stretch including three blocks and two layups that helped UNM to its 35-28 halftime lead.

"A lot of times when things happen good for your team late in the half, it gives you momentum," said Flanagan. "It gives you a feeling at halftime that things are going pretty well.

"I think it's important that we go into halftime with a positive. And I thought Val's block was a positive, got the crowd in it. That's one thing I want to say. We have terrific fan support and it was obvious today."