STEVENS: Lobo Comeback Falls Short in 70-68 NIT loss at Notre Dame
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/19/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 19, 2009

Box Score

Lobo Basketball
2009 NIT -- second round
Thursday: Notre Dame 70, Lobos 68

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

There was no quit in the Lobos Thursday night at Notre Dame. There was not a shortage of defense or guts or come-back determination.

But at the end, there was no Daniel Faris, no Roman Martinez and no Nate Garth on the floor and really not enough big plays or big free throws down the stretch.

The Lobos, up 66-60, with 2:08 to play, were outscored 10-to-2 in the final 120 seconds and were dumped out of the NIT 70-68 by the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Lobos close their season at 22-12.

"We gave ourselves every bit of a chance," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "But when you look at one area, it was foul shooting. They made six more free throws than we did."

The game stats were pretty even with UNM making 24 shots and shooting 41.4 percent and Notre Dame making 22 shots and shooting 38.6 percent. But the Irish went 21-of-25 from the line to 15-of-25 for the Lobos. The Lobos were 5-of-18 from behind the 3-point line and the Irish were 5-of-23.

The ending was a tough one for the Lobos, who were down 29-15 in the first half and 34-24 at the half before surging into their 66-60 lead.

"We were right there and we just couldn't finish it," said Alford. "We didn't come out and compete (in the first half) lie we normally do. It's like they punched us first and had us on our heels. But we came out of the locker room and played Lobo basketball."

The Lobos grabbed their first lead in the second half at 48-46 on a 3-pointer by Chad Toppert with 11:03 to play. That bucket capped a 21-9 UNM run.

Notre Dame then went up 52-48 before UNM surged to a 54-52 lead on a Daniel Faris dunk with 7:36 to play. The Lobos didn't trail again until there were 29 seconds left to play.

Dairese Gary hit two free throws at the 2:08 mark to produce UNM's 66-60 lead. Kyle McAlarney then scored on a drive to make the score 66-62.

UNM's Tony Danridge missed on a fade away jumper at 1:13 and Notre Dame came down and worked the ball inside to their 6-8, All-American Luke Harangody. He mishandled the ball slightly, got it back, and flipped up a shot as Faris committed his fifth foul at 1:05. Harangody made the extra shot and the Irish trailed 66-65.

Martinez missed a 16-footer for UNM and was called for a reaching foul with 51 seconds. Martinez went to the bench to join Faris and freshman point guard Nate Garth, who was out with a injury received in the final minute of the first half. Zach Hillesland made a single free throw to tie the game at 66-all.

The Lobos worked the ball inside to Danridge, who fumbled it, recovered and threw up a shot that bounced over the rim and into the strong hands of Harangody. He was fouled and went to line with 28.9 seconds to play. He made them both and the Irish were up 68-66.

Gary then missed on a drive for UNM and Harangody got the board, lost his balance and threw the ball away. UNM called time with 15 seconds to go.

UNM came out of the break and Gary went around a screen and was bumped with 7.9 seconds to play by Ryan Ayers, who picked up his fifth. Gary swished the first and rolled in the second to tie the game 68-68.

Notre Dame's Tory Jackson then drove the length of the court, stumbled at the end, but managed to flip a soft shot up on the glass. It lazily rolled in and Notre Dame was up 70-68.

UNM quickly got the ball to Danridge, who threw a running 3-pointer at the basket from 26 feet. The ball hit the backboard and pounded down into the rim, but rattled out.

The Lobos' season ended. Notre Dame advances to play the winner of Monday's game between Kentucky and Creighton.

Gary led UNM with 15 points and four assists. Faris had 15 points and six rebounds. Phillip McDonald had 11 points and Chad Toppert added ten points. Danridge scored five points going 1-of-10 from the field.

Harangody had 26 points and 11 boards for the Irish and Jackson had 16 points.

"We had `em," said Alford. "I'm very pleased with our comeback on this floor. We got a Big East team down on their floor. We just didn't make a lot of good decisions in that last minute and a half."

The game marked the final one for UNM's three seniors: Danridge, Toppert and Faris. "They've been terrific seniors for us," said Alford. "All three of them came such a long ways this season."

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner