STEVENS: As Expected, it's New Mexico Lobos and DePaul Blue Demons for Title
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/16/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 16, 2008

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Lobo Basketball
Travelers Tip-Off Tournament
Where: University Arena - The Pit
Sunday: Lobos 82, Idaho State 47; DePaul 90, Alcorn State 42
Monday: Lobos vs. DePaul, 7 p.m.; Idaho State vs. Alcorn State, 4 p.m.
Radio: Lobos games on 610-AM

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

As predicted, as expected, it will be New Mexico Lobos and DePaul Blue Demons playing for the title of the three-day Travelers Tip-Off Tournament. You can bet that both Lobos and Demons will be hoping to grab the championship, but you can bet both teams will be hoping for something else, too: a real test.

So far, the Lobos and the Blue Demons have waltzed through the tourney by walking over the Idaho State Bengals and the Alcorn State Lady Braves. The Lobos turned tonight's (Monday) 7 p.m. tip with DePaul into the title game by smashing Idaho State 82-47 Sunday night in The Pit.

If you buy into comparative scores, the Lobos have the edge over Depaul. The Lobos beat Alcorn State by 56 and Depaul whipped 'em by a mere 48 points. UNM beat Idaho State by 35 and DePaul dumped the Bengals by 18 points.

"They are long and they are talented and they have some athletic kids," Lobos coach Don Flanagan said of DePaul. "That's one of my concerns. And can we score in the interior against them? They are a little deceptiive because you don't think they are moving that quick, but I think we can move the ball against them. It should be a terrific game."

Terrific would be a huge improvement over the romps New Mexico and DePaul have dished out in The Pit so far. DePaul ripped Alcorn State 90-42 earlier Sunday.

The Lobos ran to a 40-20 halftime lead over Idaho State, let the Bengals close it to 40-29, and then re-applied the defensive clamps to race to the 35-point win. "I thought we defended pretty well," said Flanagan.

The Lobos were led by Angela Hartill, who had a career-high 20 points. Amy Beggin added 18 points, eight assists and five steals. "She (Beggin) is the spirit of the team in the way she plays," said Flanagan.

UNM got 11 points off the bench from Jessica Kielpinski, who went 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point line. Amanda Best hauled down a career-high 13 rebounds, had three assists, one steal and never took a shot.

"I've never seen her not shoot," said Flanagan. "She usually tries to match her rebounds with her shots. It seemed like every loose ball she went after. If you can have a rebounding guard, that's a big plus for your team. She played good team basketball today."

The Lobos ended the game shooting 41.4 percent from the floor and were 25-of-28 from the line. The dribble-drive offense Flanagan installed this season relies on good shooting and getting to the line. Hartill was 8-of-8 from the line and Beggin was 6-of-6. "We had the right people shooting," said Flanagan. "Those guys are really good free throw shooters."

The DePaul Blue Demons likely will try to slow the Lobos' up-tempo intentions and probably do some basket attacking of their own. The Demons appear to be a much better team than the two teams the Lobos smashed on Saturday and Sunday. Ditto for the Blue Demons looking at UNM.

The most consistent Blue Demon in their first two games was Keisha Hampton, who totaled 26 points in the two games. Natasha Williams scored 16 and 7 points. Hartill and Beggin have been the most consistent Lobos and the race for tourney MVP honors might boil down to that foursome.

The Lobos had an easy time with Idaho State, but the Bengals actually got Flanagan to burn a timeout at the 17:41 mark when they came out in the second half and gunned in three long treys.

The 9-point run made it 40-29. It was starting to look like a game again. "We had a little breakdown," said Flanagan. The Lobos' coach must have used the timeout to put the pressure back into his defense. The Lobos didn't necessariy extend their defense, but they did extend the intensity and the Bengals began to force a few shots.

The Lobos slipped back up 43-29 at the 15:36 timeout and 50-31 following two free throws by Hartill at 13:46. A Beggin trey followed by a Beggin layup made it 57-34. Beggin then forced a turnover and Idaho State called a timeout. Too late. The momentum had returned to the Lobos and helped energize The Pit down the stretch.

The Lobos' first half might have been the better of the two halves for UNM. UNM ran good offense in the first half and shot well (48.3 percent), but the lead also was produced by a pressure man-to-man defense that forced the Bengals out of their offense. At the 11:36 timeout, Idaho State had almost as many turnovers (6) and they had field goal attempts (8). UNM was 6-of-11 from the floor at that point and up 17-4.

The Lobo post-type players took over a small stretch. Junior Valerie Kast hit a trey and Kielpinski added another one. Kast came back with a 2-pointer to push UNM up 29-6 at the 7:59 mark. The Bengals were 1-of-12 from the floor; 8.3 percent. The Bengals finally got their offense untracked, a bit, and pulled to 29-15. Freshman Lauren Taylor hit a long, high trey to quiet that run and the Lobos pulled away to their 20-point haltime lead.

The Lobos were paced in the first half by Hartill with 10 points and Beggin with 9. Kielpinski and Amanda Adamson added six each. UNM shot 48.3 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes and Idaho State warmed up to 23.1 percent.

Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner