Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Cowgirls Look Like Lobo Women of Old
By Ken Sickenger
Journal Staff Writer
The UNM women's basketball team is getting a taste of its own medicine this Mountain West Conference season.
Its flavor is bitter.
With the Lobos struggling to put 40 solid minutes together, MWC rivals are paying back past frustrations. No. 22 Wyoming was the latest to pin a little retaliation on New Mexico, dishing out a 70-55 whipping Sunday in Laramie.
"We really didn't want to let them stay close," Wyoming's Dominique Sisk said afterward. "That happened last year and they ended up beating us twice, including in the conference tournament."
Added Cowgirls teammate Jodi Bolerjack, "We came out with the mind-set 'We're going to win this game.' ''
It was an odd setting for the Lobos and coach Don Flanagan. Wyoming (19-3, 7-2) was the nationally-ranked favorite with a large, supportive crowd on its side. New Mexico (12-10, 4-5) faced an uphill battle from the start.
"I guess this is what teams usually experience in our gym," UNM freshman Jessica Kielpinski said.
The words were music to the ears of fifth-year Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski.
"The Pit has a special atmosphere," Legerski said, "It's always been tough to win there.
"New Mexico's been a great model for us, and we're trying to build a Pit-style environment here."
Arena Auditorium, locally nicknamed the Dome of Doom, seemed to accomplish Legerski's objective Sunday. Apparently flustered by the 5,512 boisterous Cowgirl fans, the Lobos turned the ball over 10 times on their first 14 possessions.
Fired-up Wyoming took full advantage, scoring 16 points off the turnovers and building a cushy 18-2 lead UNM would never overcome.
"Wyoming's a good team," Lobo point guard Amy Beggin said. "They're ranked 22nd in the country for a reason. When you give them a big lead like that right away, you're in trouble."
After the disastrous start, UNM actually outscored Wyoming for the final 32 minutes. It wasn't nearly enough.
New Mexico has been plagued by prolonged scoring droughts in most of its losses this season. They've been particularly damaging in conference defeats dealt by TCU, Brigham Young, Utah and now Wyoming.
Beggin referred to her team's early struggles as "playing scared," and said the Lobos must be more willing to attack the basket against quality opponents.
New Mexico's confidence level certainly seems to fluctuate depending on the opponent. After looking calm and assertive in one-sided wins over UNLV and Colorado State, the Lobos seemed nervous and tentative in Sunday's early minutes.
One positive note was the play of UNM's bench, which outscored Wyoming's 32-12. Kielpinski and Geronika Jackson led the way, combining to hit 8-of-11 field goal attempts and score 22 points.
On the other hand, UNM's starters were 7-of-37 from the field and were outscored 58-23 by Wyoming's first five.
"(The Cowgirls) did a good job feeding off the crowd," Kielpinski said. "We need to take advantage of our fans like that."
UNM senior Brandi Kimble acknowledged that conference foes play extra hard against the Lobos. If the Lobos are to avoid further payback from MWC contenders, they'll have to play 40 strong minutes instead of 30 or 32.
"You're not gonna win with seven turnovers before you score," Beggin said. "We tried to battle back, but that's tough. We need to step up and play the entire game."
THINKING PINK: The Lobos took part in Wyoming's breast cancer awareness promotion Sunday, sporting pink warmup jerseys and shoelaces. Flanagan broke out a new pink shirt and tie.
It didn't stop there, as numerous fans wore various shades and the game officials used pink whistles. Even Wyoming mascot Cowboy Joe sported a fashionably questionable pink shirt under his vest and gunbelt.
Numerous women's basketball teams wore pink uniforms Sunday as part of a national campaign that continues through Wednesday. New Mexico will host its Think Pink game Wednesday against San Diego State. Fans buying pink Lobo apparel at local FANZZ and LIDS can receive four free tickets to the game with qualified purchases.
Wednesday: San Diego State at New Mexico, 7 p.m. Radio: KNML-AM (610)
Wyoming will graduate all of their starters. Other than Megan McGuffey no one on their bench has played enough to know how good they will be. They have 3 players on their bench who have not even played 10 minutes all season. It's hard to project how they will look next year.
Lobo freshmen are all logging some minutes this year and should continue to improve.
Will be ingteresting to see how Wyo performs next season. I still have MHO that SDSU will be the team to beat after this year with the sophs and frosh having this season under the belt going thru the conference and witha couple of 6'2 players they have coming next season. Utah will still have King and the W's. BYU has a lot of returners next season plus Lauren Riley's younger sister coming in. From what I hear about the same size but more athletic. TCU loses Adreinne and Lohse.
Wyoming will most likely be rebuilding next year. They only play 7 players when the game is on the line. Their best returning player is sophomore Aubrey Vandiver, then Megan McGuffey. After that they've got virtually no experience coming back next year.
Hope the Cowgirls have a good post-season. Otherwise, their fans might be ready to run Legerski out of town on a pole next year for not winning an outright regular-season championship or any NCAA games.
You're absolutely right. Everyone was calling for Flan's head on a platter after UNM's loss to Nebraska in the 98 tourney right? Didn't even make the NCAA's again until 01-02. How did he last so long?Hope the Cowgirls have a good post-season. Otherwise, their fans might be ready to run Legerski out of town on a pole next year for not winning an outright regular-season championship or any NCAA games.
Sorry, but that's a ridiculous comparison. The Wyoming fans have no expectations and are having their best year ever, so anything is golden for them, especially in the after-glow of last years WNIT Championship. UNM has had special seasons, but those seem to be in the rearview mirror.
Wyoming seems to be following the pattern set at UNM back in the late 90's. Legerski is setting the foundation, about to take Wyoming to their first ever? NCAA tourney
Increasing the attendance and interest in the program throughout the community. Will be interesting to see what happens without all the good seniors.
Will attendance stay high and help them land a couple of impact recruits similar to their current seniors?
Will they be able to capitalize on this year's success and turn that into building a national level program or is it a one season alignment of the stars?
Will be interesting to follow. Some programs take advantage of their moment in the national spotlight (Gonzaga men's team) and others don't.
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