March 2, 2011
Lobo Men's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road
Wednesday: Lobos 82, Brigham Young 64
Up Next: Air Force at Lobos, Saturday, The Pit
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Stunning? Shocking? Unbelievable? Not really. There isn't much lacking with this New Mexico Lobos basketball team when the shots are falling - and falling and falling.
You want to figure out a way to stop Jimmer Fredette and the No. 3 ranked Brigham Young Cougars? Just pop in a video of the Cougars playing Steve Alford's New Mexico Lobos. Then sit back and try to figure out which team is Top Ten.
The Lobos stunned the Mountain West's top team 82-64 Wednesday night in Provo, Utah, by outshooting, outrebounding and outplaying the Cougars. The deed was done in front of 22,000-plus BYU fans, who flooded into the Marriott Center to witness their beloved Cougars clinch a MWC title.
Instead, they saw a Lobo team roll out their best game of the season and probably end BYU's dream of entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. The upset, more stunning in the margin than the actual deed, handed UNM a regular-season sweep of the Cougars, who swept mighty San Diego State.
The Lobos were magical, fundamental and as focused as a surgeon working on an open heart. They ripped the Cougars inside and outside. There was little about this victory that was not complete.
The Cougars were mediocre on the perimeter and soft inside. And the best basketball player on the court this night was a couple of Lobos and not BYU's magic man, who finished going 10-of-26 and 1-of-9 from long range. "We wanted him to get his points inside," said Alford. "He only makes one three. That's huge for us."
UNM junior Phillip McDonald toasted the BYU zone and toasted the Cougars' man defense as did so many other Lobos. He ended with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting. UNM's Drew Gordon had another monster game inside with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Freshman Kendall Williams added 15 points and seven assists and senior Dairese Gary scored 11 points going 11-of-14 from the line.
When McDonald caught a pass in traffic and tossed in an acrobatic layup (plus one) to push UNM up 62-38, the Cougars' fate was sealed. They had fallen into a deep and insurmountable hole and had no answers on defense to stop the red-hot Lobos.
"Drew has been doing it on the glass for us all year," said Coach Alford. "He gives us that low-post presence. And Phillip McDonald's shooting really helped us."
"We did a really good job stopping them in transition. The guys listened and they went out and executed."
UNM shot 46.6 percent for the game, going 9-of-20 from long range. BYU shot 33.9 percent and was awful from behind the line going 5-of-26 for 19.2 percent. UNM dominated the boards 45-29.
Fredette finished with 33 points and it wasn't exactly a bad night for the Cougar just like it wasn't so bad in The Pit when he tossed in 32 in a BYU loss. But Fredette had little help from his teammates Wednesday night against the Lobos and BYU, playing without suspended Brandon Davies, was almost helpless inside.
"We wanted to really guard the 3-point line," said Alford. "To hold them to five makes from 3-point range was probably the key to the game.
"This was a huge boost for us. They probably have not been beaten in this building this badly in a long time. What an atmosphere. I liked the poise of our young guys. It is a tremendous win for our guys." The win raised UNM's record to 19-11 and 7-8 in league. BYU falls to 27-3 and 13-2. BYU can still clinch a share of the MWC title with a win Saturday over Wyoming.
Second Half: Lobos 40, Brigham Young 38
BYU came out of the half down 16 and needing to get Fredette and the 22,000-plus into the game. Fredette hit a quick trey and a jumper, but the Lobos didn't flinch. UNM went up 48-31 with the big hoop another trey by McDonald. At the 15:55 media stop, UNM was up 48-34 with BYU inching closer on an old-fashion, 3-point play by Fredette that handed Gary his third foul.
A 6-0 BYU run made it 48-37 and the Marriott Center was warming up for a BYU rally. The Lobos cooled the crowd with an 8-0 run that pushed BYU back into a 19-point hole, 56-37, as McDonald stayed hot.
Jamal Fenton threw in a long trey from the top of the key to hand UNM a massive 59-37 lead. The Lobos simply refused to break. A McDonald layup in traffic plus a free throw handed UNM an unimaginable 62-38 lead. At the 10:27 mark, it was 62-43. BYU had about half of a half to make a 19-point hole go away.
Instead, UNM went up 64-43 off an Alex Kirk jumper. Gary went to the line at 9:28 and the Lobos' lead bulged to 65-43. The Lobos were at a point where they could almost coast in for the win - with more than nine minutes to play.
"Dairese did an unbelievable job defensively," said Alford. "This is a huge win. We have beaten them twice when they are in the Top Ten in the country. And this was a road game. We won't play in many environments more difficult than this."
First Half: Lobos 42, Brigham Young 26
The Lobos threw out probably their best half of the season, especially considering it was achieved on the home court of the No. 3 team in the nation with 22,000-plus watching. That 16-point lead also was formed with Gary spending time on the bench nursing two fouls. The UNM senior played only 11 minutes of the first 20.
The Lobos beat the Cougars offensively, but also won the hustle battle and the board battle, 25-14. UNM shot 46.9 percent in the first half, a percentage fueled by a 5-for-10 effort from behind the line. BYU shot 26.7 percent and 3-of-16 from long range.
Fredette wasn't much of a factor on the board with eight points while looking at the combo defense of Gary, Snell and Fenton. McDonald led UNM with 15 points and Williams tossed in 12 points. The two Lobos combined to go 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
The Lobos' 16-point lead probably could have been more, if a lot of soft shots inside from Gordon and Hardeman had rolled in instead of out. The two Lobos combined to go 2-of-10 inside.
The Lobos jumped up 10-2 working on the BYU's softer, Brandon-Davies-less middle. Gordon posted, scored and added a free throw to go up 3-0. He would miss his next six shots. McDonald banged in a trey, scored on a drive and Hardeman scored on a 10-foot jumper on the baseline. That also was Hardeman's last bucket of the first half.
UNM put all of that around a Fredette drive to form the 10-2 lead that convinced BYU to call a timeout.
BYU threw in a couple of treys off Fredette assists, but UNM was scoring at its end, too. Williams hit a trey off the baseline and scored on a wild drive to push UNM up 20-10.
The Lobos got their largest lead of the half, so far, at 27-12 after another Williams' trey. And that was with Gary on the bench with two fouls. A short McDonald jumper off a Williams feed made it 29-14 and BYU burned another timeout. At the 7:49 media stop, a Williams reverse layup had UNM up 31-16.
Gary came back in at the 7:10 mark. BYU went on a short 5-0 run to cut UNM's lead to 31-21. The Lobos then rolled out seven straight points to go up 16 - 37-21 A McDonald trey pushed UNM up by 19 points - 40-21. Fenton scored on a floater inside to make it 42-24 and Fredette hit a step-back jumper to form the 42-26 halftime count.