Stevens: Lobos Have To Stop Monster Rams From Shooting In Close

Feb. 21, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Women's Basketball - In The Pit

Wednesday: Colorado State (12-14, 8-3 MW) at New Mexico Lobos (8-17, 2-9)
On The Air: 610-AM, KNML with Joe Behrend and Nikki Heckroth Game Recap, Stats, LoboTV, Quotes, Photo Gallery

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

So, how do you guard Colorado State's Kim Mestdagh, the Mountain West's preseason pick for 2012 Player of The Year honors?

Do you stop her from shooting? Yeah, that's a good idea. She is averaging 17.2 points in MW games and was over 20 a game before Wyoming held her scoreless from the field last week.

"We have to keep a hand in her face at all times, no matter where she is," said UNM's Nikki Nelson.

Do you stop the top Ram from passing? Yeah, that's a good idea, too, because at times she looks more like a point guard. She is averaging 4.2 assists in CSU's 11 league games -- for a good reason.

Mestdagh likes to toss the ball inside to 6-foot-2 Sam Martin, who averages 13.9 points in league games.

Here you have two reasons the CSU Rams are No. 2 in the Mountain West race and the top scoring team. You have Mestdagh outside. She tops the Mountain in league games making 2.9 treys per game. You have Martin inside, who is No. 3 in field goal percentage (MW games) at .532.

But there are other big reasons the Rams are tough to stop. They also have 6-3 Kelly Hartig, 6-2 Meghan Heimstra and 6-2 Kara Spotton. Hartig is No. 2 in field goal percentage (MW games) at .545 and Heimstra is gunning at a .485 pace.

"They go into Sam Martin and Kelly Hartig and those kids are monsters inside," said Lobo Coach Yvonne Sanchez. "They get deep position. They finish well. They have an array of moves in the block. We have to limit touches."

Part of the reason for CSU's high mark in shooting is because they take close-in, high-percentage shots. They love those layups. But even 5-foot-4 LeDeyah Forte is among the Top 15 shooters in the league with a .453 shooting eye.

The Lobos have only two players out of their top nine shooting higher than .390 from the floor: Durbin and Torrance. The Lobos not only have to limit CSU's touches inside, but they have to do some shooting of their own.

"We can't have those spurts where we become stagnant on offense," said Sanchez. "We can't have those droughts or turn the ball over at crucial times. We have to find offensive situations where we can be successful."

The Lobos' best offensive situation is getting the ball into Caroline Durbin's capable hands. She is averaging 15.6 points in 25 games and shooting .475 percent from the field. She is shooting .518 from long range going 43-of-83 from behind the line. The Lobos also get 11 points and 8.7 boards a game from Porche Torrance.

The Lobos might be without senior Lauren Taylor vs. CSU. Taylor went down hard near the end of UNM's game at UNLV and Sanchez said the "whiplash-like" injury has Taylor as a game-day decision as far as playing time.

"It seems like our conference in general has been a lot more physical this year," said UNM's Nelson, both her knees wrapped in ice bags.

The Lobos have a number of keys to victory vs. CSU. They have to try and force the CSU "Bigs" out of the paint and frustrate them into taking longer shots. "You got to get them out of there," said Sanchez. "You can't give them low-block touches."

The Lobos also have to control Mestdagh, take care of the basketball, and maybe get some offensive production from Lobos other than Durbin and Torrance.

"Our baby steps are getting better," said Sanchez. "Our kids have gotten better. They are building confidence. It's starting to pull together. But it doesn't feel any better losing. We want to get a win."

Said Jourdan Erskine: "Anyone can win on a given night and we're ready to come in and play; stop their post players, shut `em down."

The Lobos (8-17) have only three games left prior to the Mountain West Tournament to be played March 7-10 in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. They are 2-3 over the past five games, but wins over CSU and/or TCU would do wonders to boost UNM's confidence prior to the MW wars in Vegas.

The Lobos will end their home season at 2 p.m., Saturday when TCU visits on Senior Day.

"We owe it to the fans to play our best, so we are playing our best," said Nelson. "We are playing our hardest."