Dec. 9, 2010
LOBO MEN'S BASKETBALL - IN THE PIT
Saturday: 7:02 p.m., New Mexico State at Lobos
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GoLobos.com: Game Story, Photo Gallery, Stats, Quotes
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The "tweak" is on the way and both New Mexico Lobos and New Mexico State Aggies know what to tweak as Lobos look to sweep and Aggies look to quiet The Pit and roll out an upset.
The Aggies obviously will have a few things on their mind when they jump ball with Lobos at 7:02 p.m. Saturday in University Arena. Namely:
The Lobos' tweaking has to do with taking care of the basketball and taking care of the glass. You can bet that Lobo coach Steve Alford has told his Lobo pups:
"That's a huge emphasis," Alford said of opportunities lost and given. "We gave up too many opportunities."
If the Aggies and the Lobos can do these things, Lobo fans might be looking at the same type of game that Aggie fans saw down in Cruces - a thriller.
Of course, there is at least one other thing the Aggies need to do in order to even this season's series with the Lobos - don't fall into another huge hole.
In Cruces last Saturday, the Aggies fell behind by 17 points, scratched their way into overtime, shot 10 percent (1-of-10) in OT, and lost.
In The Pit last season, the Aggies fell behind 41-18 to the Lobos and never clawed their way out of that canyon. Yeah, it's easier to come back at home; not so easy in The Pit.
"It' going to be a neat atmosphere," said Alford. "I don't think getting them (Lobos) ready to play is going to be an issue."
The Aggies surely got the Lobos' attention by rallying in Cruces and forcing the Lobos into extra minutes. The Aggies surely are upset and looking for revenge after failing to finish that rally. There probably won't be any surprises on Saturday as the first game in this series pretty much exposed what both teams like to do.
The Lobos like to play defense, in part, because Alford gives them no choice. They held NMSU to that 31.1 percent shooting with good positioning, good help defense and pure aggression. The Aggies typically help out, too, with questionable shot selection.
Those errant Aggie shots also create opportunities on the glass. "The offensive rebounding can be a little misleading because there were so many missed shots," said Alford.
NMSU missed 24 more shots in Cruces than the Lobos missed - 51 misses to 25 misses. That's one reason NMSU had 25 offensive rebounds and UNM had 10. The Aggies got a few long rebounds as they launched a season-high 26 treys.
There is another reason for some of that good NMSU board work. The Aggies are athletic and tall behind 6-foot-10 Tshildzi Nephawe, 6-11 Renaldo Dixon and 6-11 B.J. West.
The Aggie also might have 6-11 Hamidu Rahman on Saturday, an injured Aggie who is listed day-to-day. NMSU's starting center can be a force inside. He is No. 6 on the NMSU list for career blocked shots (89) behind Sam Lacey (92).
"We know we have to prepare for height and size," said Alford. "This is as big a basketball team as we play and it's a real good team to prepare us for San Diego State."
The Aggies' top rebounder vs. UNM in Cruces was 6-5 Tyrone Watson, who had 14 boards - seven and seven. The 6-8 Troy Gillenwater hit 32 points on UNM in the Pan American Center going 8-of-29. He averages 20.4 points and 7.8 rebounds. Junior guard Hernst Laroche averages 11 points and 4.4 assists.
"Your preparation is not heavy," Alford said of playing NMSU in back-to-back games. "You are not diving into a completely new scouting report. You are just trying to tweak some things."
For sure, the Lobos will work on blocking out better and jumping higher. They'll work on taking better care of the basketball. They won't make any major adjustments on what they do on offense.
They'll look for major damage to come from out front from Gary, McDonald and Williams, who combined for 55 points in Cruces. McDonald also had 10 boards. The Lobos got 10 points inside from A.J. Hardeman.
The Lobos take a 6-1 mark at the Aggies, who come back at 2-6. UNM has won the past six games in the series and haven't lost in The Pit since December of 2002 - just another thing the Aggies would like to tweak.