Nov. 3, 2010
Lobo Men's Basketball
Wednesday: Lobos 80, Eastern New Mexico 58
Up Next: Vs. Manchester, 8 p.m., Saturday - The Pit
On The Air: My 50-TV, KKOB 770-AM / Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There really was a double lure in The Pit Wednesday night for the 13,921 fans, which came to watch the Lobos open their new digs while also running the Bob King Floor with the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds.
So what was the bigger draw? The Lobos or The Pit? "In about ten days, when Detroit is here, they (fans) need to be in their seats," said Lobo coach Steve Alford referring to UNM's season opener Nov. 13.
Yeah, maybe then the Lobos might need some real Pit support, but for the exhibition against Eastern a lot of fans were strolling around and gawking at the $60 million facelift to the arena built in 1966 for $1.4 million.
There was a lot to look at. But the game wasn't so bad either. The Greyhounds used some timely 3-pointers, especially the 7-of-11 effort by Stefan Mirabal and trailed the Lobos 55-52 in the second half.
Then the young Lobos finally went on a run - and 18-0 run that left the Greyhounds in the dust and eventually on the short end of a 80-58 score.
"I thought there were moments that were really good and the other things that weren't, we have plenty of time to work on," said Alford. "It's going to be a work in progress.
"Our guys need to play in front of big crowds. This was kind of a shock to some of these guys."
Alford is looking at his youngest team ever at UNM and a few of those first-year Lobos seemed a bit star struck by the number of fans that showed up for an exhibition game against a lower-division opponent.
Some of the good things thrown out by the Lobos was a 48.4 percent shooting night, 20 assists against nine turnovers, and holding Eastern to 58 points and 36.2 shooting.
The Lobos got 17 points from Curtis Dennis on a 5-of-8 shooting night and 16 points from Dairese Gary, who went 6-of-10 from the floor. No other Lobos reached double figures as Alford used all 12 of his players.
"I think I got over my nerves from last year," said Dennis. "I just have to come out and help the team win anyway I can."
Alex Kirk, the 6-foot-11 freshman from Los Alamos, N.M., had a solid game with eight points and six boards and first-year Lobo Emmanuel had eight points and seven boards. UNM out rebounded Eastern, 42-37.
"I thought Kirk played really well," said Alford. "We haven't had this luxury (of big men). We have to find a way to get those bigs closer to the basket and get them some touches."
Gary and Dennis combined to go 9-of-10 from the free throw line, but UNM dipped after that, shooting 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) as a team. "Other than foul shooting, I thought we did some good things," said Alford.
The Lobos were shocked a bit early by the poised Greyhounds, who ran to an early lead of 12 points. UNM's second-half run put an end to any dreams the Greyhounds might have had about matching an 81-76 upset of UNM in 1991.
Maybe the good thing about Eastern scratching into a lead is that it gave Alford a chance to show the intense bench coach his Lobos surely will see more than a few times in the 2010-11 season. Yes, Alford had to raise his voice a few times at his young Lobo pups.
"I was pretty loud," he said. "I think I was game-like tonight because I think we have to be. The guys have to get used to how I am in timeouts, how I am in runs. It's important for us to let them see that now."
The Lobos get another exhibition chance to see that side of Alford when Manchester visits The Pit at 8 p.m. on Saturday, following the Lobos' football game with Wyoming (4 p.m.).
The crowd of 13,921 was the largest exhibition crowd since UNM drew 14,293 in 2002 against EA Sports West.