Nov. 20, 2008
Thursday: Lobos 96, Grambling State 50
Saturday: Lobos vs. Central Florida, 7:07 p.m., The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Just two minutes and 11 seconds into the second half and his Lobos up by 31 points, New Mexico coach Steve Alford gets a technical foul, almost begging the man in stripes to throw one his way.
With less than two minutes to play and UNM up 94-44, Alford stomps toward the half-court line and yells at freshman point guard Nate Garth, "Run an offense."
Point made. Message received.
"Coach wants us to play to the end," said senior center Daniel Faris after the University of New Mexico spanked Grambling State 96-50 Thursday night in The Pit in Game One of the Cancun Challenge. "He's an intense coach and he was showing us that he was there through the whole game and we had to be there, too.
"He told us we didn't finish the game at Creighton and that's why we lost and even if we are up by 50 points, we have to play hard to the end. You see him over there working hard and you know that you had better be doing the same thing on the court."
This definitely was a game UNM pushed hard from beginning to end. The Lobos were up 49-18 at the half and even when Grambling finally adjusted somewhat to UNM's pressure defense, the Lobos kept pulling away. Alford said his intensity in the second half was not wanting to waste a half of basketball by not getting better.
"I just wanted to make sure our guys didn't (lose) 20 minutes where we weren't getting better," said Alford, who saw his Lobos go to 2-1 in the young 2008-09 season. "I wanted them to make sure they realized that I was still focused and that we have to take those 20 minutes and get better. This was a really good bounce-back game for us."
The Lobos were coming off an 82-75 loss at Creighton. UNM plays host to Central Florida at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in UNM's Game Two of the Cancun Challenge.
The Lobos had six players in double figures led by Faris with 18. Roman Martinez and Phillip McDonald both had 15 points, Chad Toppert kicked in 12, Dairese Gary had 11 and A.J. Hardeman scored 10, going 5-of-6 from the field. UNM shot 56.7 percent from the field. UNM outrebounded Grambling 50 to 33 and had 25 assists to 10 for the visitors.
Lobo fans have seen Tony Danridge the monster dunker. GoLobos.com introduced them to Danridge the Ninja. And Thursday night in The Pit Lobo fans saw Danridge the point guard.
"He looked like Jason Kidd out there," said Faris referring to his roommate's eight assists, a career high for Danridge. "I've never seen him play like that before. Tony had one of his best games since I've been here. If he keeps passing like that, that's Mountain West Conference Player of The Year right there."
Danridge's passing game definitely as at the A level, but the UNM senior didn't have the same touch with his shots. He was 1-of-7 from the floor and 1-of-5 from the free-throw line. He had two rebounds in 26 minutes. "It was just a night where things didn't click for Tony," said Alford. "To his credit, he hit the open man."
It also was a night where Danridge didn't need to click. So many other Lobos were doing good things. Gary had six assists and Garth had five assists and two steals. McDonald had 10 rebounds and Martinez had eight. McDonald had two blocks and two assists. The Lobos' defense also was intense from the beginning and intense until the end.
"We made some strides, in part defensively," said Alford. "We really wanted to try and get better defensively. I thought we kept them on the perimeter. There weren't as many drives to the basket. I thought we contested things better. I thought we helped (on defense) better. This week had been all about toughness. We really challenged them in practice about toughness."
It was a solid game for Faris inside with his 18 points and six rebounds. "Daniel can be someone inside who can give us a presence," said Alford.
The Lobos' first half was impressive. UNM raced to a 49-18 lead shooting 59.4 percent. The Lobos went 19-of-32 from the foor and 8-of-13 from behind the 3-point line. The Lobos had 14 assists with Danridge getting seven of his career high in the first half. Farris led UNM with 11 points. Martinez had eight and McDonald added seven.
Andrew Prestley, who scored 27 in his last outing for Grambling, was 2-of-11 from the field for four points. He finished with 10 points, going 3-of-15 from the field. In the first half, the Tigers went 7-of-30 from the floor and 2-of-12 from behind the line.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner