Jan. 13, 2010
Wednesday: Lobos 74, Utah 57
Saturday: Lobos at Wyoming, 1:30 p.m., Laramie
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The Lobos' swagger is back. Earning that strut in The Pit isn't neccesarily a surprise. But it's a bit of a surprise that two of the Lobos who earned this strut, as much as any Lobos, were A.J. Hardeman and Will Brown.
The Utes were supposed to have the Twin Towers of Inside Terror and 7-foot-3 David Foster and 7-foot Jason Washburn were a couple of trees in the paint. But they often look like green stems as Hardeman and Brown snapped them on drives, dunks and determination in UNM's 74-57 roll of Utah Wednesday night in The Pit.
Hardeman and Brown combined for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Foster and Washburn paired for nine points and seven rebounds. After that, when you compare UNM's perimeter game vs. Utah's perimeter game, the edge leans toward Lobos.
"They need that (inside game) to win and we maybe wanted those guys to be the guys to beat (us), and they did," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "I thought their bench and their two big guys did a heck of a job.
"I didn't like that (getting outplayed inside). We have to go inside and we have to score the ball inside. We weren't tough enough. I didn't like our grit."
The Lobos' inside grit was good. Hardeman and Brown were tough and active. Hardeman even matched Foster's blocks on the night -- two. UNM also won the board battle 42-34.
"We just had to come out and play aggressive," said Hardeman. Said Brown: "I don't think they expected us to come out with as much spunk as we did."
The Lobos ran to a 35-24 halftime lead, let Utah scratch back to 55-50 with 6:49 to play, before one of those Lobos off the bench -- Nate Garth -- hit maybe the biggest shot of the game. The Lobo sophomore came out of a Steve Alford timeout to nail a 3-pointer off a Dairese Gary feed. UNM went up 58-50.
"I thought that was the biggest play in the game," said Boylen. "That hurt."
Maybe the next biggest shot of the game came a few seconds later when Gary stole the ball and powered in for a layup that upped UNM's lead to 60-50. The shots came 27 seconds apart. Utah looked broken and The Pit crowd of 13,501 was roaring. The Lobo went up 68-51 with 3:52 to play and drifted to the Mountain West Conference win.
The Lobos play next Saturday at Wyoming. UNM is 15-3 overall and 1-2 in the MWC. Utah is 8-3 and 1-1 in league.
"Anytime you lose two games in a row there is a lot of heat on you," said Alford. "I thought our effort was tremendous. Tonight is more like we've been playing."
Alford said the Lobos' strategy was to go at Utah's Foster and Washburn, hope for contact, but be aggressive to the hoop. "We got (Foster) in foul trouble and we didn't let their shot blocking influence the game," said Alford.
UNM outscored Utah in the paint, 30-to-16. "I thought A.J. and Will were really good," said Alford. "They played with great energy."
The Lobos had five players in double figures: Hardeman (11), Darington Hobson (14), Gary (13), Roman Martinez (11) and Garth (10). UNM shot 41.8 percent from the floor, but only made three 3-pointers. Utah shot 35.3 percent with seven 3-pointers.
Utah had a single player in double figures: Marshall Henderson with 12 on a 3-of-11 shooting night. Utah's leading scorers, Luka Drca and Carlon Brown, had seven and four points respectively.
"I thought the job we did on Brown and Drca was the difference in the game," said Alford. "And we found a way to score and not make threes."
Said Boylen: "Drca and Brown have to play well for us to win."
The Lobos won a lot of the little statistical battles in this MWC war: more free throws, more rebounds, fewer turnovers, fewer fouls.
"We lost too many games inside the game," said Boylen. "We were not tough enough in those games inside the game. You also have to make shots in this building because you know that sooner of later they are going to go on a run. We're just not very good offensively right now."
Second Half -- Lobos 39, Utah 33
The Utes weren't quick enough to hang with UNM on the perimeter and needed to limit UNM's inside scoring and the Lobo drives. The Lobos, more or less, needed to keep doing what they had done in the first half, maybe adding a bit more transition stuff. The Lobos also need to get Martinez on the scoring column.
Darington Hobson - 14
Dairese Gary - 13
A.J. Hardeman - 11
Roman Martinez - 11
Nate Garth - 10
Will Brown - 7
Jamal Fenton - 6
Phillip McDonald - 2
The Lobos came out of the break up 35-24 and extended it to 38-24 on Martinez's first points of the game, a trey. The Lobos maintained that 14-point lead (44-30) at the first media break of the second half at 15:45. Martinez came out of the break to hit a quick jumper off an in-bounds play and UNM was up 46-30.
The Utes made a small run to cut UNM's lead to 49-40. The Lobos got a nice Pit reaction at 11:44 when Martinez got a steal a couple of seconds after a Utah steal. The Lobo missed a quick trey, but Hobson was there for the tip in that pushed UNM up 51-40.
Utah's 7-3 Foster went to the bench at 11:09 with his fourth foul. The Utes were still hanging around at 10:48, down 51-44 on a single free throw from Jay Watkins. Alford called a timeout at the 10:44 mark. Martinez went to the line at 10:35 and hit two: 53-44. The UNM senior picked up his fourth foul at 10:10 and went to rest on the Lobo bench. At the 7:56 break, UNM was up by nine -- 55-46. Foster joined his teammates on the floor after the break.
The Utes made a quick 4-0 run accented by a Henderson trey. Alford called time at 6:45 with his Lobos up 55-50. UNM came out of the huddle and Garth hit a big trey from the right wing off a Gary pass. UNM then got a steal and a Gary layup and suddenly UNM was up 60-50. The Lobos' five-point run moved Utah's Boylen to call time at 6:08. The Pit was on its feet.
Gary got a layup on a drive down the baseline to push UNM up 62-50. Utah lost Henderson, one of its top 3-point guns, at the 4:35 mark. That fifth foul put Gary on the line. The junior made both shots and UNM was up 64-51. The Utes needed to hit some shots. Instead, Utah turned it over and Gary to Martinez in transition pushed the Lobos up 66-51.
Boylen called another time, seven seconds before a media timeout, down 15 in The Pit. At the media break 15 seconds later, UNM had the ball and Hobson came out of the UNM huddle shooting two at the line. He rolled in both and UNM was up 17 -- 68-51. That pretty much ended it. The Lobos worked the clock, and the free-throw line, into the 74-57 final.
First Half -- Lobos 35, Utah 24
The Lobos played a balanced game on both ends of the floor. UNM shot a solid 40 percent from the floor and held Utah to a 32 percent half. The Lobos got some important inside points from Hardeman and Brown, who combined for 15 points and eight rebounds. UNM's Martinez did not score in the first half. Utah got eight points from Marshall Henderson.
At the 15:29 media break, Utah was up 11-7. The Lobos were getting good looks against the tall Utes and even got a Hardeman tip inside. However, the Utes banged in three treys to take that early four-point lead. Utah was shooting 66.7 percent at that mark, 3-of-4 from behind the line. UNM was at 33.3 percent, 3-of-9 from the floor. The board work was even at 4-all.
The Lobos got a big hoop at 14:47 when Brown drove on the 7-3 Foster, threw in a fade jumper and added a free throw to make it 13-10. The Lobos then got back-to-back baskets from Gary -- a jumper, a layup -- to take a 14-13 lead. At the 11:50 break, UNM was up 15-13.
The Lobos got another big basket inside at the 10:02 mark. Hardeman drove, dunked and also got fouled. He made the extra shot to push UNM up 19-15. UNM stayed up by four, 21-17, when Garth drove, flipped a shot high and soft. It kissed off the glass and into the hole. The Utes got a trey and UNM took a 21-20 lead into the 7:43 media break.
The Lobos got two free throws from Hardeman and one from Hobson to go up 24-20. Hobson got called for a block at 5:51 and Utah's Henderson made both free shots standing beneath the wrath of The Pit: 24-22. Utah got a short jumper from Glover and then the Lobos went on a little run. It wasn't an explosive burst, just steady, productive on both ends and all the way to the close of the half.
The Lobo run was fueled by buckets from Fenton (2), Brown, Hardeman and Garth and carried UNM to a 35-24 halftime lead. Brown worked Utah's 7-foot Washburn to touch a left-handed shot off the glass. Hardeman got a dunk on a Garth pass to push UNM up 33-24. Garth formed the 35-24 halftime count with a short bank shot.