Jan. 29, 2010
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
So far, so good, in the Lobos' trek into the Mountain West Triangle of Terror -- BYU, TCU and San Diego State. Don Flanagan's Lobos are one-third of the way into the triangle and stand 1-0 after a semi-stunning win at Brigham Young. Turns out the Cougars weren't all that terrorizing.
What might be the stunning stat in that upset in Provo, Utah is that the shooting woes that have been, well, shooting the Lobos in the foot of late, really didn't go away at BYU.
The Lobos still had a few bricks in their traveling bags, shooting 29.6 percent in the second half, 33.3 percent for the game and not making a single trey in the second half. Not good.
Those numbers don't sound like a road win, except that the Lobos did listen to Flanagan's message about what to do when the shots are clanking. You drive. You shoot layups. You get to the free-throw line. Oh, maybe Amanda Best didn't take Flanagan's message to heart until halftime. Best came out of the lockerroom and scored all her 15 points in the second half.
But the Lobos attacked the BYU press, attacked the BYU half-court defense and went to the line to make 17-of-26 free throws. That pretty much was the difference.
BYU shot 43.5 percent from the floor, but converted only 9-of-14 from the line. All those stats turned into a 60-57 UNM win. It was a big win for the Lobos. BYU was coming off a 10-point Provo win over San Diego State. BYU was atop the MWC standings. The Lobos were in a slide.
So, that brings up the current questions facing the Lobos Saturday in Pack The Pit day:
1. Is it more terrorizing to face TCU in The Pit than it is to face BYU in Provo?
2. Can the Lobos shoot 33 percent from the floor and beat the Horned Frogs?
3. Will the Lobos knock a second consecutive team off the top run of the MWC rankings?
On the surface, the realistic answers are 1- yes, 2- no, and 3- probably not. But who would have expected the Lobos to gun at a 29.6 clip in the second half at BYU, toss in no treys, and leave with smiles on their faces?
The problem with TCU's visit on Saturday is that the Frogs appear to be the MWC's best balance of talent, teamwork, quickness and depth. If not them, maybe San Diego State. That's why the Aztecs also are included in this trying MWC triangle. The Cougars might be in that trio for a while, or by default, until some other MWC team gets scary and jumps in.
Back to TCU. The Lobos matched up well with BYU in the quickness and talent department. It won't be as easy to drive at the Frogs. It won't be as easy to stop the Frogs from driving. UNM won the turnover battle 14-to-6 at BYU. The Lobos need similar numbers against the quick Frogs.
The Lobos' edges in this battle are obvious. They have The Pit. The Lobos also are fundamentally sound enough on defense to force the Frogs into rushed and/or bad shots. If TCU is hot, the Lobos are in trouble. If UNM is hot, the Frogs are in trouble. If UNM shoots in the low 30 percentage range, well, the Lobos could be in trouble.
Amy Beggin paces UNM with a 13.6 point average. Jessica Kielpinski has stepped up in a big way lately to give the Lobos an inside presence. She had 11 points and 11 boards at BYU and is leading UNM in conference play with a 10.4 scoring average and a 7.9 rebounding average. The Lobos are still without Lauren Taylor, out with a knee injury.
The Frogs are led by Emily Carter with a 15.1 average. Helen Sverrisdottir scores at a 13.6 clip and TK LaFleur comes off the bench with a 10.5 average. The Frogs like to shoot. Carter averages 18.3 points in MWC games. Starr Crawford is a force inside and is the top Frog on the boards with an 8.7 average.
In the MWC race, the Lobos are close enough to get back in it, but need to protect The Pit. TCU is now atop the MWC at 5-1. The Frogs are coming off a 78-51 hammering of Colorado State. That's a big whipping. The Rams did a lot of things wrong and the Frogs took advantage.
BYU and SDSU are tied for second at 4-2. The Lobos are 4-3 and Wyoming and CSU are at 3-3. UNLV is fading at 2-5 and Air Force is gone at 0-6. The Lobos women are in a situation similar to the Lobos men when BYU visited The Pit on Wednesday. UNM needs the win to hang around, but a TCU win in The Pit would be a big boost for TCU in its title chase. TCU has won 10 of 11.
The Lobos need a lot of things to happen in order to pull an upset over TCU. They need to hit shots and probably need a few Pit-rocking treys to fall. They need to take care of the ball against the TCU quick pressure. They need to stop TCU from getting into transition and scoring easy buckets.
The also need The Pit to rattle those Frog ladies as much as possible. That's likely to be a given come Saturday. It's Pack The Pit day, and The Pit loves its Lobos.