Nov. 29, 2007
A pair of undefeated teams make for an enticing early season non-conference matchup Saturday afternoon when New Mexico (7-0) visits Ole Miss (5-0). Tipoff is noon Albuquerque time from the C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Miss. Live audio is available via All Access at golobos.com. There is no television coverage or streaming.
New Mexico is 7-0 for the first time since an 8-0 start in 1998-99. It's the 11th time in school history the Lobos have opened with seven consecutive victories.
This is the Lobos' second road game of the season. They opened the year with a 54-47 victory at Colorado. UNM completed a six--game home stand Wednesday with a 57-48 triumph over Southern Utah.
Ole Miss, 102-76 victors over Troy on Tuesday, has used the SEC's top-scoring offense (96.4 points per game) to start 5-0 - all at home - for the first time since 2000-01, when it won 11 straight.
While the Rebels are among the nation's leaders in scoring, New Mexico is yielding just 54.4 points a game to rank second in the Mountain West Conference. Only one opponent - Hawai'i - has reached 60 points against UNM this season.
The Rebels are shooting nearly 52% from the floor. UNM has allowed foes a shade under 39% accuracy. Ole Miss is forcing an average of 18.4 turnovers a game, while the Lobos have been guilty of just 12.4 miscues per contest.
New Mexico is playing at a Southeastern Conference arena for only the fourth time. UNM lost at Vanderbilt in 1956 and at Tennessee in 1989 and 2003.
It's a daunting task for the Lobos in their first game in the state of Mississippi. Ole Miss has won 17 straight non-conference home games and has dropped just five such contests since 1995. UNM was 8-43 in true road games during former head coach Ritchie McKay's five-year tenure from 2003-07, including 2-12 in non-league affairs.
The Lobos stay on the road next week, visiting New Mexico State on Tuesday. The next home game is Saturday, Dec. 8 against the University of San Diego.
LOBO BASKETBALL COLLECTING FOR TOYS FOR TOTS
The University of New Mexico men's and women's basketball programs have teamed with Toys for Tots to benefit local youth during the upcoming holiday season. The Lobos will be accepting toys from fans, beginning Monday, Dec. 3, at the ticket office at The Pit. Fans donating to Toys for Tots will receive a discounted ticket to a selected upcoming men's or women's basketball game.
Fans can drop off toys at the ticket office Dec. 3-5 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.). Those donating to Toys for Tots can purchase tickets to the men's game against San Diego on Dec. 8 for $5 or the women's game against Arizona on Dec. 15 for just $2. Each toy donated will allow fans to purchase up to four tickets at the discounted price. For more information call the UNM Ticket Office at (505) 925-LOBO.
QUICK NOTES ABOUT THE LOBOS
Alford is 315-183 (63%) in his 17th season as a collegiate head coach. His teams have qualified for postseason play 11 times, produced 13 winning seasons and reached 20 wins on eight occasions.
Alford is facing Ole Miss for the first time in his head coaching career.
In eight seasons at Iowa, Alford compiled a 152-106 record with a school-record seven consecutive winning seasons, and six postseason appearances. The Hawkeyes won two Big Ten Conference tournament titles (2001 and `06). Iowa was 17-14 in 2006-07. It was 9-7 in the Big Ten, tied with NCAA teams Illinois and Purdue for fourth place.
Prior to Iowa, Alford posted a 78-29 record in four seasons (1992-95) at NCAA Division III Manchester (Ind.) College and a four-year (1996-99) record of 78-48 at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). The Bears defeated Wisconsin and Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 1999 NCAA Tournament before losing to top-ranked Duke in the regional semifinals. In 1997 Alford led the Bears to a 24-9 record (second in the Missouri Valley Conference) and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament.
UNM VS. OLE MISS
This is the 3rd meeting between the Lobos and Rebels. UNM has a 2-0 lead, including a surprising 95-42 victory in The Pit on Nov. 19, 2005. The 53-point margin ties for the 7th-largest in school history and equals the 4th-widest for a Lobo team in The Pit.
New Mexico also toppled Ole Miss 75-64 in the championship game of the 1996 Lobo Invitational. UNM was ranked 16th in the country at the time of that game and finished the season 25-8, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
LOBOS VS. THE SEC
New Mexico has a 5-6 record against current members of the Southeastern Conference. The Lobos are 1-0 vs. Georgia, 2-0 vs. Ole Miss, 0-1 vs. South Carolina, 2-2 vs. Tennessee and 0-3 against Vanderbilt.
MORE ON THE REBELS
Six Rebels are averaging in double figures led by sophomore guard Eniel Polynice at 14.8 a game. A pair of senior stalwarts - Kenny Williams (9.2) and Dwayne Curtis (8.0) - are pulling down more than 8 boards a game. Ole Miss is out-reboudning opponents by a margin of 11.8 a game and is averaging 10 steals a game. The Rebels list 17 players on their roster, and all have seen action through five games.
After leading an underdog Ole Miss squad to the top of the SEC Western Division and an NIT second round appearance, 2007 SEC Coach of the Year Andy Kennedy is looking to do more of the same with another Rebel team picked last in the SEC West by preseason prognosticators.
Kennedy guided Ole Miss to a 21-13 record in 2006-07, which marked the most wins by a Rebel head coach in his first season at the helm. It was also the most wins by any Rebel team since the 2000-01 NCAA Tournament "Sweet Sixteen" squad.Kennedy faces another daunting task this year as he mentors a team comprised of only two returning starters and 10 newcomers.
The Louisville, Miss., native was introduced as the 20th head men's basketball coach in the history of the University of Mississippi on March 24, 2006. He spent the 2005-06 season as the interim head coach at the University of Cincinnati, helping the Bearcats to a 21-13 record and NIT quarterfinals appearance playing a schedule rated fifth-toughest in the nation amid difficult circumstances.
SEASON NO. 105
The 2007-08 season is the 105th in school history. The Lobos first laced up the hightops on Feb. 2, 1900, when they lost 8-6 to the Albuquerque Guards. While this season is actually the 106th anniversary of that inaugural year, UNM did not field a team for various reasons in 1900-01, 1903-04, 1917-18 and 1920-21.
The Lobos have been on the hardwoods continuously since the 1921-22 season and have compiled an all-time record of 1,272-996 (.559). New Mexico was 421-497 (.458) from 1900-62, but has gone 851-499 (.628) over the past 44-plus seasons, an average of nearly 19 wins per year. The Lobos have made 27 trips to the postseason during that span, including 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and 16 showings in the NIT.
DANRIDGE OUT UNTIL JANUARY
Lobo senior Tony Danridge suffered a broken left fibula during a game with teammates on Oct. 4. He had surgery on Oct. 8 and is expected to miss three months. Danridge, a 6-5 senior from San Bernardino, Calif., posted 12.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season and was named 3rd team All-MWC. He is the only Lobo to play in all 95 games over the past three seasons, not missing a game to this point in his Lobo career. He does have a redshirt year available.
GIDDENS THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
Through games of Nov. 28, Lobo senior J.R. Giddens is the only player in the Mountain West Conference who ranks in the top-15 in the league in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.
SOUTHERN UTAH RECAP
J.R. Giddens scored six straight points midway through the second half to help New Mexico pull away and beat Southern Utah 57-48 Wednesday night. Giddens finished with a game-high 14 points, including 10 in the second half. His seven rebounds was a game high and he equaled a career-high in assists with six.
The game was close until Giddens took over with 10:35 left on a reverse layup to break a 36-all tie. It started New Mexico on a deciding 17-4 run in which Giddens had eight of the points, including an emphatic dunk.
Except for the start of the game, the Lobos hardly looked like a team with an average victory margin of nearly 30 points at home, and Southern Utah didn't resemble a squad that had lost three in a row.
After Nick Livi knocked down a 3-pointer to begin the game for Southern Utah, New Mexico ran off the next 12 points and it appeared it was going to be another runaway for the Lobos. But the Thunderbirds recovered and the teams were tied at 23 going into the half.
The Thunderbirds missed a chance to hold the lead with eight seconds left in the first half when Orlando Griego missed a foul shot after a basket.
SOUTHERN UTAH POSTGAME NOTES
Senior J.R. Giddens
Senior Darren Prentice
Junior Daniel Faris
IT'S A FIRST FOR LOBO HOOPS
For the first time since the 3-point shot was introduced into college basketball before the 1986-87 season, UNM canned at least 13 3-pointers in three straight games. The historic feat came during the Basketball Travelers Invitational when the Lobos were 13 of 28 against Presbyterian, 13 of 28 against St. Bonaventure and 13 of 26 against Loyola Marymount. That's a 47.6% clip for the 3-game tournament.
MORE ON THE 3s
Before the misfirings from long range against Southern Utah, the Lobos were among the nation's early leaders in 3-point shooting. They still lead the league in 3s per game at 9.71 and the 42.5% shooting is No. 3 in the Mountain West.
3s AND COUNTING
UNM has made a 3-point basket in 555 straight games, the 12th-longest active streak in NCAA Div. I hoops. UNLV is 1st at more than 650 games. The last time UNM failed to connect from long range was Jan. 3, 1991, missing on 8 attempts against Colorado State in The Pit.
EVERYONE PLAYS AND CONTRIBUTES
All 10 Lobos have played in every game this season, and all 10 are averaging between 15 and 26 minutes a game. With seven games in the books, you could say there have been a total of 70 opportunities to score: 7 games x 10 players. Amazingly, only 4 times has a Lobo not gotten into the scoring column this season.
It's the same with rebounding. Just twice has a Lobo failed to get a carom, Gary against Colorado and Darren Prentice in the St. Bonaventure game.
And, since everyone plays the Lobo bench has made huge contributions. The reserves contributed 49 points in the 86-58 win over Loyola Marymount, including 19 of the first 23 and 26 of 43 in the first half. UNM's reserves have scored 44% (240 of 547) of the points and pulled down 47% (119 of 251) of the individual rebounds this season. That's averages of 34.3 points and 17 rebounds a game.
The 28 assists in the 92-57 win over Eastern Washington is UNM's highest total in 10 years, since it had 32 in a 112-61 victory over Holy Cross on Dec. 29, 1997.
UNM PREDICTED FOR 4TH-PLACE FINISH IN MOUNTAIN WEST
New Mexico was picked to finish fourth in the 2007-08 Mountain West Conference race during the league's preseason media gathering in Denver on October 17. Voters were a combination of head coaches and media.
SEASON TICKETS SURPASS 10,000
Season tickets climbed above 10,000 for the first time since the 2003-04 season when UNM sold 10,598. The final count is 10,096. UNM sold at least 10,000 season tickets for 30 consecutive seasons between 1974-75 and 2003-04.
The Lobos return seven lettermen, including four starters, from last year's team that posted a 15-17 overall record and finished tied for eighth in the MWC with a 4-12 mark. UNM returns more than 77% of its scoring, 67% of its rebounding and 71% of its minutes.
Returning starters include seniors J.R. Giddens, Tony Danridge, Darren Prentice and Jamaal Smith. Giddens led the team in scoring at 15.8 ppg while Danridge was second on the team at 12.5 ppg. Prentice led the squad with 101 assists while Smith was tops from the FT line at 82.5%. Danridge was a 3rd team All-MWC selection while Giddens and Prentice were both honorable mention honorees.
New Mexico lost just two seniors in Aaron Johnson and Kellen Walter. Johnson led the team in rebounding, grabbing 7.3 rpg while scoring 6.3 ppg. Walter was the only four-year player on the team, averaging 2.0 ppg as a senior.
Junior Jeffrey Henfield (2.2 ppg), sophomore Ryan Kersten (5.5 ppg) and freshmen Sean Imadiyi (1.1 ppg), David Kanyinda (1.5 ppg) and Derek Oestreicher (redshirt in 2006-07) all decided to leave the program following the season.
Other returning players include juniors Chad Toppert and Daniel Faris and sophomore Roman Martinez. Toppert was No. 9 in the nation in 3-pt. FG% at 43.8%. He was also third on the team in scoring at 9.5 ppg. Faris started 10 games as a sophomore, averaging 4.8 ppg and 3.4 rpg.
Alford and his staff will welcome five new faces to the team in 2007-08, two junior college transfers (Johnnie Harris and Monquel Pegues) and three freshmen (Dairese Gary, Kem Nweke and Jonathan Wills).