New Mexico Lobos Mountain West Basketball – In The Pit
Tuesday: New Mexico 84, Boise State 75
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
The hammer, the foot, the Lobos’ edge, came down hard in the first half. The Boise State Broncos did their best to raise that New Mexico weight off their backs. They couldn’t do it.
“They really didn’t have an answer for us in the first half,” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal after the 84-75 win that pushed New Mexico to 5-1 in the Mountain West. “To play us, you have to play big-big because you have to guard us (inside). I think most teams are trying to match up with us because they have seen our success.”
The Lobos ran and muscled their way to a 40-27 halftime lead and the Broncos managed to cut that gap to 69-64, in possession of the ball. But the Broncos couldn’t make the buckets or the plays and UNM again pulled away.
“I think guys made shots and guys made plays and that was big,” said Neal. “Especially when it was cut to (five). We had guys step up. I thought we beat an excellent basketball team tonight. They can come at you in waves.”
Greenwood was a Lobo who stepped up. He scored 20 to top the UNM scoring charts.
“It’s just been a matter of time; just trying to join the (scoring) party,” said Greenwood of his shooting touch that was damaged due to a wrist injury that had placed him on the bench.
“In the back of my mind, I knew I needed to help them (Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams). I’m just trying to help those guys out and take pressure off their back.”
Said Neal of Greenwood’s scoring: “I think we’ve always expected that. He had passed up shots in the past, but he played really free tonight. He was terrific tonight and made some big shots.”
Coach Neal excited the crowd early by wearing his red blazer, which is supposed to bring Lobos luck. “I heard the roar and didn’t know what it was,” said Greenwood, who said he then looked over and say Neal’s red coat.
The Lobos kept that roar going by running to a quick 17-4 lead – and never allowing Boise to take control of the scoreboard.
Said Bairstow of Neal’s color choices (red blazer/plaid pants): “I liked the blazer. I wasn’t too sure about the pants, but it seemed to work.”
The Lobos came out of the half up 13 and at the 15:57 break had pushed the gap to 51-36. At the 11:53 media stop, UNM was up 59-46 coming off a Kirk dunk. UNM was shooting 88.9 percent in that half at that point – 8-of-9 with 17 game points going to Greenwood. UNM was shooting 61.1 percent for the game. The Broncos needed to cool UNM down. The Broncos were up on the boards 30-to-18, but there weren’t too many UNM misses to chase down.
“It was good to see him (Greenwood) get going and get his touch back,” said Bairstow. “Hopefully, that will carry over into the following games. That helps open things for us inside.”
The Broncos were playing better on offense in the second half, but weren’t having much luck on defense. At the 8:47 mark, Boise finally cut UNM’s lead into single digits at 64-55. The visitors from Idaho used the line to cut it to seven. UNM needed a little run. UNM got a big trey from Greenwood to launch the Lobos back up by 10 points, 69-59 with 6:32 to play.
A key moment of the game came near the five-minute mark. Williams had missed a one-and-one chance and forced up a driving layup that missed. Boise had the ball down 69-64, but turned it over. Williams banged in a trey: 72-64.
“We kind of let them back in it,” said Bairstow.
At 3:38, Boise had the ball down 74-66 and called for a team huddle. The Broncos were in a difficult situation. They had to outplay the Lobos in almost every area for more than three minutes – in The Pit. They also had to keep UNM off the line.
The Broncos couldn’t do it. A Williams-to-Bairstow feed led to a layup at the 2:19 mark that pushed UNM up 77-68. They rode that cushion to the Mountain West win.
“We’re 5-and-1. That’s pretty good,” said Coach Neal. “Our guys have done a heck of a job concentrating and getting wins.”
First Half: New Mexico 40, Boise State 27
The early pace had a familiarity to it. It reminded you of hockey players pounding each other into the glass or maybe ultimate fighters in a cage. It was physical on both sides, but the Lobos were making their shots and Boise was not. So, the Broncos called time, down 9-2, at the 16:35 mark. Williams had five points and Bairstow had four. At the 15:22 media break, UNM was up 12-4 off a Greenwood trey.
“I think we had a better defensive mindset,” said Bairstow.
It cooled down a bit after that – on the physical level. UNM continued to shoot it. The Lobos went up 17-4 on a Williams’ trey before Boise cut that to 17-9 at the 10:35 break. Two laser-accurate jumpers by Bairstow moved the board to 23-11 and Boise decided to huddle at 8:10. The Lobos were playing good defense and good help defense, but even when Boise was patient enough to work for an open shot, they often missed.
Bairstow continued to dominate – at both ends. He pushed UNM into a 26-15 lead. He then fed Cleveland Thomas a loose ball and Thomas went coast-to-coast for a layup plus one at the line: 30-15. A Greenwood follow of a Thomas miss made it 32-15 and almost everything was going the Lobos’ way because they were making it go their way. The best thing Boise could hope for was to make it into the halftime break with a pulse. And hope the Lobos didn’t sharpen their fangs at the break.
UNM dashed up the ramp with a 40-27 lead.