March 9, 2011
Lobo Women's Basketball -- at The Mountain West Tournament
Wednesday: Lobos 67, Wyoming 61
Friday: 3:30 p.m. (MT), No. 7, Lobos vs. No. 2 TCU
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
LAS VEGAS -- It's probably fair to say the Wyoming Cowgirls waited too late to look like the No. 3 seed in the Mountain West Tournament and the team that swept the Lobos twice during the regular season.
It also fair to say that the Lobos picked exactly the right time to look like the Lobos of old - the New Mexico team that takes to the Thomas & Mack Center like it's a home away from home.
"We wanted to stay in Vegas," said Lobo coach Don Flanagan after the Lobos 67-61 upset of the No. 3 seed Cowgirls Wednesday night. "We love Vegas."
Said Lobo senior Jessica Kielpinski: "They call it Pit West. It's home away from home. When we are here, we just gel together. Something clicks when we are here."
The Lobos controlled the Cowgirls from start to finish, rolled out a 14-point lead late in the second half, and held off a too-late Wyoming charge to claim a 67-61 win Wednesday night in quarterfinal action of the Mountain West Tournament.
"It helps if you have played a game in the tournament and you had success in it," said Flanagan. "We wanted to jump on them early. I thought we defended well tonight."
The win marked the second straight night in which the Lobos beat a team that swept them during the regular season. UNM beat San Diego State 65-57 on Tuesday.
The Lobos' quest for the automatic NCAA bid that comes to the MWC tourney champ is now at the "two down and two to go" level. The Lobos advance to play No. 2 seed TCU at 3:30 p.m. (MT) Friday. This time the Lobos are not looking to beat a team that swept UNM in the regular season. UNM and TCU split with each team winning on the other team's home court.
The Lobos had four players in double figures: Amanda Best with 15, Jasmine Patterson hit 14, Lauren Taylor had 13 and Jessica Kielpinski added 11. The Lobos won the board battle 42-35 with Porche Torrance pulling down 10, and Best and Kielpinski each adding eight rebounds.
The Lobos shot 36.1 percent from the field and held Wyoming to 37.9 percent. UNM went 18-of-25 from the line to 9-of-15 for Wyoming. Wyoming's Aubrey Vandiver looked like the MWC Player of The Year with 26 points and nine boards, but too much of her help came late when Wyoming was playing with the energy of desperation.
"Vandiver is so hard to stop," said Flanagan. "We rotated people on her. She's a quality player and very difficult to defend. She can score on the outside and the inside. We tried our best to defend her, she still gets 26, that's why she's conference MVP."
The Cowgirls got 15 points from Hillary Carlson, but no points from Jade Kennedy, who went 0-of-3 from the floor.
"We did a great job on Kennedy," said Flanagan. "We really worked hard in not allowing Kennedy to get a good 3-point look. The second time we played them, she had seven threes. She didn't score today. That was one of the keys.
"I thought we did a great job of rebounding late and then we just gutted it out."
The Lobos got some big plays from Torrance down the stretch including two offensive rebounds, one block of a Vandiver shot, and the Lobo junior also took a charge from Vandiver down the stretch.
"The last four minutes were terrific," said Yvonne Sanchez, UNM's associate head coach. "No team in the conference has blown us out. We are confident and this group has stayed together. This was a tough win.
"It's good to get some rest because we take on a very talented TCU team."
The Lobos take a day off from the court on Thursday before running with TCU on Friday.
Second Half: Lobos 38, Wyoming 36
The Lobos came out of the half up by four and extended their lead to 37-28 behind two treys by Taylor. Wyoming called a timeout at 16:59. The Cowgirls came out of their huddle and turned the ball over. Best made them pay with another trey: 40-28. At the 14:12 break, UNM was up 42-31 off a Torrance follow of a miss by Taylor.
The Lobos grabbed their biggest lead of the game at 45-31 when Taylor banged in a trey out of transition from the left wing. Wyoming cut it to 45-35. At the 11:24 break, UNM was up 49-36 following a drive and layup by Best.
The Lobos went back up by 14, 51-37, on a short Kielpinski jumper off a Best pass. At the 7:49 break, UNM was up 54-43. Wyoming's Vandiver launched a long trey over good pressure to cut the Cowgirls' gap to 55-48. The Wyoming surge was quieted when Vandiver got whistled for a technical foul and two free throws by Best pushed UNM up 59-48.
Wyoming came back again. A Carlson trey followed by a Vandiver flip shot inside made it 59-53. Kielpinski missed inside and picked up her fourth foul crashing the boards. Wyoming's Carlson made a single free throw: 59-55. Patterson turned it over for UNM going into the 3:46 break.
Wyoming came out of its huddle and hit Carlson underneath: 59-56. Patterson hit two free throws at 2:26: 61-56.
"We did a good job of controlling the game until about four or five minutes to go and they made a run," said Flanagan. "I was a little nervous there, that we were not going to respond, but we had a couple of big plays. We are playing well right now. We are playing the best we have all season and we had players who played with a lot of poise."
The Lobos got some great inside plays inside by Torrance in the closing minutes. The junior got back-to-back offensive boards, which produced no points, but burned time off the clock. She then blocked a Vandiver shot inside which eventually led to a single Taylor free throw and a 62-57 UNM lead.
Torrance then took a charge from Vandiver that led to Patterson scoring on a fly pattern and UNM was up 64-57. Wyoming missed at the other end and Torrance pulled down the rebound. The Lobos pulled in for the 67-61 upset.
"For this team, it's just us coming together at the right time," said Best. "We are are staying positive with each other and we all believe."
First Half: Lobos 29, Wyoming 25
Lobo Stat Leaders: Kielpinski 8 pts., Patterson 8 pts., Best 7 rebs.
Both teams took it easy on the scoreboard early. The teams combined to start 0-of-16 from the field with the Cowgirls missing their first nine shots and the Lobos missing seven straight. UNM ended the first half shooting 34.3 percent and Wyoming shot 32.1 percent. UNM won the board battle 23-19 and Wyoming had seven turnovers to three for the Lobos.
UNM's Patterson finally broke the ice and lit the board with a steal and a layup to put UNM up 2-0 at the 15:50 mark. At the first media break at 14:09, Wyoming was up 5-4.
At the 11:49 break, it was 6-5 UNM. The Lobos were shooting 18.8 percent (3-16) from the floor and Wyoming was 14.3 percent (2-14). The Lobos then got buckets from Kielpinski, Patterson and Torrance to claim a 12-7 lead that had Wyoming calling for a timeout with 8:40 to play.
At the 7:06 break, Kielpinski had scored inside for UNM and Vandiver scored for Wyoming to form a 14-9 count. UNM had warmed to a 28 percent shooting and Wyoming was up to 21 percent. The Cowgirls then went on an 8-2 run, fueled by two treys, to take a 17-16 lead into the 3:56 break.
The Cowgirls went up 21-18 on another trey, but the Lobos threw out a better finish down the stretch to claim their 29-25 halftime lead.