Nov. 24, 2008
Tuesday: Lobos (3-1) vs. Utah Valley (1-2)
When/Where: 7 p.m., The Pit
Up Next: Lobos vs. William & Mary, 7 p.m., Friday, The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The dilemma faced by Don Flanagan's Lobos in The Pit vs. Utah Valley is a bit like what the University of New Mexico faced at Stanford. Well, minus the All-American and Top 10 factor that came with the Cardinal.
But the Lobos went at Stanford focusing hard at stopping the inside game and the Cardinal burned UNM from deep. The Lobos' focus against the Utah Valley Wolverines has to be inside. The Wolverines have 6-foot-1 Robyn Fairbanks, who is averaging 27.3 points per game.
But the Lobos can't just tell the Wolverines, "Go ahead and shoot the trey." Utah Valley hits almost 46 percent (21-of-46) from behind the line.
"You cheat inside and they hit the outside shot," said Flanagan. "They are simplistic in what they do, but it's effective. They want to go inside and if you cheat (on Fairbanks), they have that outside shot."
Still, the Lobos have to give Fairbanks a healthy amount of respect and maybe a whole lot of defensive help on whomever (probably 6-3 Angela Hartill) is guarding the crafty Wolverine. Fairbanks averages 27.3 and the other four Utah Valley starters average close to 29 points per game. Fairbanks is the go-to Wolverine.
"Usually, we figure we can handle those kids, keep them in the teens," said Flanagan. "But this kid is getting a lot of points off some pretty good teams. It surprises me that she got that many against a good Gonzaga team. She's the real deal."
Fairbanks can be a force inside. Her career high in scoring is 43 points. She twice has pulled down 20 rebounds in a game. She had 31 points and 13 rebounds in a 94-71 loss to Montana State, which suggests that Fairbanks can go off and the Wolverines can still lose. She had 29 points and nine rebounds in Utah Valley's 95-79 loss at Gonzaga.
"She is physical, very determined to score, with a nice touch and quick moves inside," said Flanagan. "She is not overly tall, but a big kid, who is aggressive and they go to her. I ran seven plays (in practice) and five of them were to her."
Ironically, the Wolverines' top shooter from behind the line percentage wise is Fairbanks. She is 4-of-5 for 80 percent. Utah Valley' has three perimeter players, Julie McMurray, Sandy Marvin-Wall and Kayla Burningham, who combine to go 12-of-22 from behind the line. UNM's Amy Beggin said one of the things UNM came back and worked on after their 84-46 loss at Stanford was getting out on the long-range shooters.
"We found a lot of things we need to work on," said Beggin. "We took it (the loss) kind of hard. It was an eye-opener for us. We didn't close out on their shooters very well." Stanford shot 52.6 percent from 3-point range in the first half in running to a 45-25 halftime lead.
After Utah Valley, the Lobos host the Holiday Inn and Suites Express Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament Friday and Saturday in The Pit. The Lobos play William & Mary at 7 p.m. Friday following the 5 p.m. tip between Nebraska and Butler. Saturday's consolation game tips at 5 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. tip for the title.
The Lobos are looking at Utah Valley to help get the taste of their 38-point loss to Stanford out of the Lobos' mouth, but they aren't eyeing the Wolverines as a non-conference cupcake.
"I don't perceive any game as a cupcake game," said UNM senior Amanda Adamson. "As a team, your responsibility is to focus on who you are playing, what they do well, and working to eliminate that. We have to play our best and as hard as we can against every team.
"Teams that come into The Pit really want to get wins here in front of all our fans. It's a big-time win for teams to win here. Who doesn't want to win in front of 7,000, 8,000 fans, even if it's not your home court."
The Lobos are led in scoring by Hartill at 14 points per game. Beggin is scoring at a 13.3 clip and Adamson is averaging 10.3 points. Beggin said it is nice to return to The Pit, but agrees with Adamson that opposing teams also are motivated by a visit to University Arena.
"Getting back in front of the home crowd should help us. They always do," said Beggin. "But everyone who comes in here knows it's a huge win for a team to beat us in The Pit. We can't take anyone lightly."
Said Adamson: "This will be a test for how we come back from a pretty big loss."
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