May 26, 2007
The University of New Mexico men's basketball team opened up its exhibition series in the Bahamas with a hard fought 73-71 win over the Bahamian Select team tonight at the Sir Kendall Isaac Gym in Nassau. Senior Tony Danridge led UNM with 16 points while junior Daniel Faris had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards in the game.
After spending the day by the pool taking in the sights and the sun at the Atlantis Resort, the Lobos were expecting a friendly exhibition game against one of the local club teams. Instead they arrived at the Isaac Gym set to face a select team of players looking for a spot on the Bahamian National Team.
UNM jumped out to a 6-0 lead after hitting three of its first four shots. The Bahamians turned up the defensive pressure and erased New Mexico's hot start with a 12-0 run of their own. The Bahamians physical play got head coach Steve Alford so fired up he was hit with a technical foul just over three minutes into the game. UNM got back into the game over the rest of the quarter. A three-pointer by sophomore Roman Martinez just before the end of the period gave UNM a 21-19 lead.
"After we traded gifts and got ready to tip, we were being a little too respectful," stated UNM senior Darren Prentice. "We came out with love taps and they were throwing knock-out punches. We had to adjust our approach before things got ugly. In the end, we came together as a team and got the win."
The Bahamians started the second quarter with a 14-3 spurt to build a 33-24 lead. Former Gonzaga guard Quentin Hill ignited the run with three buckets in the stretch. UNM had a rough stretch in the quarter, going just 2-5 with six turnovers. A put-back by Martinez in the first minute and a three from Prentice in the final minute, were the only two shots from the field that fell for the Lobos in the second. UNM trailed 42-37 at the half.
The start of the second half was delayed 20 minutes when the lights in the gym went out. Play had to be halted to allow time for the lights to warm back up. New Mexico put together a quick spurt to start the second frame, highlighted by two transition buckets from Danridge. Playing with just eight players in uniform began to take its toll on New Mexico. That fact was evident on Danridge's second fast-break. The high-flying Lobo didn't get enough lift for one of his highlight-reel dunks and had to lay the ball in the basket. A three-pointer from the corner by sophomore David Kanyinda gave UNM a 58-55 lead after three periods.
In the fourth quarter, senior Jamaal Smith went 6-6 from the FT line to help secure the game. Leading 68-67 with 1:10 left in the contest, junior Daniel Faris buried a three from the right side to give New Mexico a four point cushion. After getting a stop on the defensive end, junior Chad Toppert hit a three from the near corner off a pass from Prentice to put the Lobos up 73-67 with 50 seconds left.
The Lobos turned the ball over on the next three possessions, as the Bahamians climbed back to within two points. They actually missed a contested lay-up with 14 seconds left that would have tied the game. UNM tried to ice the game, but turned it over for a fourth time in a row, giving the home team a chance. However, a three-point attempt from the corner was just short, allowing New Mexico to hold on for the win.
"We've only got eight guys," stated UNM head coach Steve Alford. "We have five signees that weren't allowed to come and J.R. Giddens is going to school, so that makes it a little more difficult. They have all done a great job practicing these past two weeks, but I thought their pressure bothered us in the first half. He had 14 turnovers in the first half, but not as many in the second so we made some adjustments in the second half. We took better care of the ball and I thought that was the difference."
When asked what he was looking for from tonight's game Alford added, "The way we guard. I want them to learn what we expect defensively. We took 6-8 charges tonight so I thought our help was pretty good. We did some good things on the interior that we can build on. We have to start protecting the basket and move it out from there."
"That is why it was a good game for us," commented Alford on the play of the Bahamian team. Sometimes when you make trips like this, guys don't really care and you can really have a bad game. It was great to play a team like this where you get an effort from the players and they care about it. It ended up being a great game for both of us."
UNM will face the Bahamian Select team again tomorrow at the Sir Kendall Isaac Gym at 6:00 p.m. (E.D.T.).