Feb. 16, 2009
What: Lobos vs. Brigham Young
When/Where: 6 p.m., Tuesday -- The Pit
On TV: The Mountain (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
On Radio: 610-AM KNML
Online: GameTracker; Live video on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It is a night of three little words and, better yet, a night of three little letters for the University of New Mexico Lobos.
The Lobos plan to be "Pretty In Pink" at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a Pink Zone promotion for breast cancer awareness and even UNM coach Don Flanagan will admit his Lobos "looked very pretty" in their pink uniforms.
But will the Lobos also be "Nasty in Pink?" Probably. That's where the three little letters kick in; letters that always seem to bring the nasty out in Lobos and in The Pit: BYU.
If ever there was a league team that fires up The Pit simply because of the name, it's probably Brigham Young University. And you can bet the BYU Cougars will be stepping into University Arena with a little special fire of their own.
All the Cougars have to do is reflect on what happened to them on Jan. 17 in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. BYU lost to UNM 61-57 and there is really only one way to recapture a home loss to a Mountain West Conference contender. Get some payback on their turf.
"We won at their place and we know that they have to be thinking they need to come in here and win at our place," said UNM senior center, Angela Hartill. "They'll have a whole lot of motivation and we know that and it will help us with our motivation."
Of course, the Lobos have another prime source of motivation in coach Flanagan, who is impressing upon his Lobos that the stretch run of the MWC race is here and now.
"We have to play very well from now all the way to the (MWC) tournament," said Flanagan. "There is no time now where we can have a bad game."
The seeds of favor in the MWC tourney are the top three because the format gives a single bye to the No. 3 seed and two byes to No. 1 and No. 2. All the other seeds must play four games to become MWC champions and grab the league's automatic berth to NCAA play.
The Lobos carry a 17-6 overall and 6-4 MWC mark at BYU. The Cougars are 16-6 and 6-4. Yeah, this game is pivotal. The Lobos also have a huge game at 2 p.m. Saturday at San Diego State.
The Utah Utes are still leading the pack with a sassy 10-1 MWC mark with San Diego State and TCU at 8-3. The Horned Frogs had an impressive 75-55 win at BYU and SDSU handed the Utes their first loss with a 55-49 Aztec win at home.
The Lobos and BYU are 6-4 and both teams have hurt their regular-season hopes with key home losses. UNM lost to Utah and SDSU and still must travel to those gyms. BYU lost at home to Utah, TCU and UNM. The Cougars' gained on the Lobos by winning at Wyoming and at UNLV -- road games the Lobos lost. BYU actually might be playing its better ball on the road.
"One thing about BYU is they really play well here," said Flanagan. "They play hard and they play a physical game and that's not going to change when they come here. They are going to play that style and you have to respond to that."
The Cougars are a tough pack to figure out. They have some bad home losses. They won big at TCU. BYU definitely needs a big road win at this juncture of the season and the Lobos need to protect the home floor, especially with UNM road games looming at Utah, at SDSU and at TCU.
"I think we're really prepared mentally and physically," said Amanda Adamson, a senior wing. "We have to appreciate each game and play as hard as we can. We're focused. We're back now."
Said Flanagan: "There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. I'm hoping we're just confident."
The Lobos are coming off a confidence-building 73-39 Pit stomping of Air Force. UNM is led in scoring by junior point guard Amy Beggin with a 15.1 average. Hartill kicks in 10.7 points per game. The Lobos' offense can be hot and cold, but the UNM defense usually is a constant. The Lobos are holding their MWC foes to 52.8 points per game and a .347 shooting percentage. That .347 mark is solid, but only good for fourth place in the MWC behind Utah (.329), SDSU (.333) and BYU (.340).
"It looks to me like an excellent game," said Flanagan. "BYU is pretty good. Last year, they beat us here; we beat them over there. Neither team has had a big problem playing at each other's facility."
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