Dec. 23, 2009
Wednesday: Oral Roberts 75, Lobos 66
Up Next: Texas Tech at Lobos, 7 p.m., Tuesday, The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Jubilant fans stormed the court. The winning players gathered in a celebratory huddle -- hooting, hollering and hugging over their win.
Even in defeat, there was a statement of how far these young New Mexico Lobos have come.
Oral Roberts ended the cold-shooting New Mexico Lobos' undefeated season 75-66 Wednesday in Tulsa and the Golden Eagles celebrated as if they had just won a title or a shiny trophy. "To beat a ranked team is huge," said ORU coach Scott Sutton.
The Lobos fell behind 38-27 at the half and rallied into a 58-57 lead before a 10-0 run by ORU helped the Golden Eagles place the first stain on the Lobos' now 12-1 mark.
The Lobos' perfect season had to end sometime and on the road, in a non-conference game against a solid program known for defending its home court, is not such a bad way for it to end. The Golden Eagles (7-6) also have wins this season over Missouri and Stanford.
"This has been a tremendous start for the season," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "Now, we see how this team handles a setback."
Alford said his young Lobos get a short Christmas break before reporting back to UNM and back to practice on December 26. The Lobos' return to The Pit will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday against 10-1 Texas Tech.
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"It's a pivotal week for us," said Alford, including his Lobos` Jan. 1 game in The Pit against Dayton. "We're going to need our home crowd to get us over the hump. This is a good Tech team. You have a 10-1 team versus a 12-1 team."
The Lobos shot 37 percent from the floor and 26.8 percent from behind the line. The Golden Eagles shot 46.9 percent from the floor and got 18 points and 13 rebounds from Michael Craion and 17 points from Dominique Morrison.
UNM got 13 points apiece from Phillip McDonald and Dairese Gary. Darington Hobson had 11 points. Gary also had six assists and four steals. "Dairese is doing a lot of good things for us and he's usually getting the toughest defensive assignment from us," said Alford of his junior point man.
The Lobos got an off night from Roman Martinez, who scored four points with seven rebounds. The UNM senior went 1-of-9 from the floor and 1-of-7 from behind the line. "When you prepare for us, you start with Roman Martinez," said Alford. "He's getting the other teams' best defender."
The Lobos took their 58-57 lead when McDonald threw up a quick trey with a hand in his face on the left baseline. ORU's Warren Niles touched a short jumper off the glass to give the Golden Eagles a 59-58 lead going into a Lobo timeout with 5:30 to play.
"We're on the road and we get it to a five-minute game," said Alford. "We just had a bad final five minutes."
The Lobos' bad minutes started on a UNM turnover that led to ORU's only trey of the second half -- a bomb by Niles. That trey at 4:38 put ORU up 62-58 and ignited ORU's 10-0 run. The Eagles then got a jump hook from Kevin Ford to go up 64-58.
A key swing came with 2:54 to play when Martinez missed two free throws that led to a dunk by Ford and a 67-58 ORU lead. The Golden Eagles milked that 10-0 run and that nine-point lead into the 75-66 final.
"This was a tough game," said Alford. "This is a (Christmas) break game. You get ranked 12th in the county, things are going smooth, and there is probably going to be a letdown.
"We've had back-to-back games where we didn't shoot the ball well and I think we're tired. You aren't going to win consistently, if you can't get into the 40 percent shooting. But to be 13 games into this at 12-and-1; these guys have done a lot of good things."
The Lobos came out of the locker room needing to cut into ORU's 11-point halftime bulge of 38-27. UNM layups by Hardeman and Gary were followed by a McDonald trey that got the Lobos to 40-34.
A Hobson jumper and Martinez's only trey of the game moved the scoreboard to 43-39. A Golden Eagles' turnover led to a Hobson layup and ORU called a timeout as the Lobos pulled to 43-41.
The Lobos finally grabbed the lead at 46-45 when Hobson accepted a pass from Gary and flipped in a layup. McDonald hit a trey to keep UNM up 49-47 going into a break with 11:16 to play.
The intensity level that favored ORU in the first half was pretty even now. At the 7:36 break, the two teams were tied 55-all. The Lobos' six points from their 49 count came on two free throws by Nate Garth and a layup and two free throws by Curtis Dennis. The Golden Eagles were getting their points inside.
ORU added two more points on a power drive by Kyron Stokes to recapture the lead at 57-55. McDonald then hit his baseline trey to give UNM its final lead of the half at 58-57.
ORU's Holman then hit his 3-pointer to trigger the Eagles' 10-0 run and their 67-58 lead. UNM's Will Brown ended that run with a layup to make it 67-60. The Golden Eagles hit enough free throws down the stretch to close out the Lobos.
First Half -- Oral Roberts 38, Lobos 27
The Lobos went into the locker room down 11 points. Some keys: nine UNM turnovers, three points combined for Martinez and Hobson, 54.5 shooting by Oral Roberts from behind the 3-point line.
The Lobos fell behind 14-4 and 21-8 before a timeout by Alford got the Lobos to play pretty much even with Oral Robert the rest of the way in. UNM cut the Golden Eagles' lead to 27-24 on two free throws by Jamal Fenton before ORU went on a 3-point-fueled run to go back up 38-24. A trey by Hobson just before the gun formed the 38-27 halftime score.
The good start that Alford likes to see on the road was not there out of the gates in Tulsa. The Lobos didn't shoot well, didn't take care of the ball well, and fell behind 14-4. UNM's first two field goals were a Gary drive and a soft Brown dunk off a Hobson assist. Hardeman pushed down a Garth miss to make it 14-6 at the 11:38 media break.
The Lobos continued to struggle on offense and Oral Roberts slipped up 18-8. A UNM turnover led to a Morrison trey and the Golden Eagles had a 6-0 run that pushed them up 21-8. Alford called a timeout at 8:03. His high-scoring Lobos needed to up their intensity on both ends of the court.
UNM came out of its huddle and Martinez found a cutting Gary for a backdoor layup: 21-10. UNM's Chad Adams got a layup off a Lobo steal on the press to make it 21-12. Oral Roberts came back and broke the press for a layup: 23-12. McDonald hit two free throws for UNM and Morrison hit two for the Golden Eagles and it was 25-14.
The Lobos got an inside bucket from Brown, who followed his own miss. A drive and a free throw by Gary made it 27-20 going into the last media break of the half at 3:41. Dennis got a garbage layup underneath and then Fenton got fouled on a drive at 2:42. The freshman hit both free shots: 27-24.
A 3-pointer by Holman extended Oral Roberts into a 30-24 lead. A UNM turnover led to two free throws by Niles: 32-24. Gary missed a jumper and Holman banged in another trey: 35-24. UNM turned it over again and ORU's Niles made the Lobos pay with a trey: 38-24. Hobson hit his 3-pointer just before the buzzer to cut ORU's halftime lead to 11 points.
The Golden Eagles got 18 points off UNM turnovers in the first half.