Jan. 6, 2010
Tuesday: San Diego State 74, Lobos 64
Saturday: UNLV at Lobos, 2 p.m., The Pit (SOLD OUT)
On The Air: VERSUS (TV); 770-AM KKOB
Online: GameTracker, game story, stats on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer / GoLobo.com
If there is a good thing about the 74-64 slap in the face Steve Alford's Lobos received at San Diego State, it's that the 10-point loss might also be a wake-up call for the 14-2 Lobos.
The Lobo coach warned his young Lobos that life on the Mountain West Conference road would not be easy. His Lobos were handed a harsh lesson by the tall and athletic Aztecs.
You really don't need to go any further than the stat lines to see why Aztecs (12-3) won and Lobos lost. The Aztecs outscored the Lobos from the field and the free-throw line, outrebounded the Lobos (43-39), had more assists (17-9), fewer turnovers (11-14) and more steals (11-5).
All that stuff isn't good for a team on the road, but Alford also wasn't happy with his Lobos' overall execution or toughness at either end of the floor.
"I thought they were more physical than we were," said Alford, whose Lobos play host to UNLV at 2 p.m., Saturday in The Pit. "I thought they were tougher than we were.
"You have to be able to run an offense and do it with some toughness, get good shots, and be able to knock down good shots. We're not doing that right now. I didn't like our toughness at the defensive end and I didn't like our discipline on the offensive end."
The Lobos' first half wasn't so bad. UNM opened the game shooting 7-of-10 from the field and were only down 38-36 at the half. The Aztecs also lost their leading scorer, Billy White, in the first half with an ankle turn. He did not return to the floor.
The Lobos scratched to a 46-45 lead at the 14:36 mark of the second half on a spin-jumper by UNM's Darington Hobson. It went downhill for the Lobos after that.
A key to UNM's fall was the Aztecs attacking and dominating the Lobos inside. Aztec Thomas Malcolm had 18 points and 15 rebounds. SDSU was credited with 30 points in the paint.
The Lobos actually had 17 offensive boards to 16 for SDSU. "We never put the ball back in the basket and they did," said Alford. "They finished."
"We shot the ball extremely poorly tonight, especially in the second half. Our inability to make shots and then get stops when we're not making shots, that effected us.
"They had a good game plan on Darington. He had a lot of shots that were down and in, but just popped back out. It wasn't a real good night for us."
The Lobos had four players in double figures with Gary at 15, Hobson and Martinez with 12 apiece, and McDonald with 10. Hobson had nine boards. UNM got six points combined from A.J. Hardeman and Will Brown. Sophomore point guard Nate Garth did not play due to a mild illness.
The Aztecs shot 44.4 percent from the floor to 35.1 percent for UNM, which shot 38.1 percent from behind the line. Hobson was 4-of-17 from the floor, Martinez was 3-of-9 and McDonald was 3-of-7 -- a 10-of-33 total.
"We've got to learn to fight through lulls where we're not making shots," said Alford. "You shoot 35 percent and you are putting a lot of pressure on the rest of your game."
The loss, mathematically, isn't such a big deal in the big picture of the MWC race. The time-tested formula for winning a MWC title is to win at home and go at least 4-4 on the road. Not too many MWC teams, if any, will win at San Diego State.
The Lobos' game Saturday vs. Vegas in The Pit is huge. The game is sold out. The Lobos need to defend their turf against a talented, quick and long-armed Rebel team.
"We'll get just as good, if not a better team (in UNLV)," said Alford. The Rebs might not be quite as physical as the Aztecs inside, but the Rebs do have nice inside-outside balance. UNLV opens MWC play tonight (Wednesday) at Brigham Young.
SDSU coach Steve Fisher credited his defense for the win. "I think we won with how we guarded," said Fisher. "We got good players and they competed really, really hard, to a man."
Second Half -- San Diego State 36, Lobos 28
The Lobos were down 38-36 at the half, but scratched into a 46-45 lead on a Hobson spin move in the paint that ended with a 14-foot jumper. That lead didn't last long as SDSU went up 48-46 with 12:47 to play.
UNM's Fenton then slashed to the hoop and got fouled. He made his second free shot to pull UNM into a 48-47 deficit. The Aztecs' Tim Shelton then went to the free throw line at 12:21 to shoot three after UNM's Will Brown leaped into the Aztec after a 3-point shot. Shelton made two and SDSU was up 50-47. The Aztecs carried that 3-point lead into the 11:51 break.
SDSU went up 53-47 when Kelvin Davis threw up an off-balance trey on the baseline trying to beat the shot clock. It rattled in. The Lobos turned it over on a drive and Thomas got a power dunk inside. The Aztecs went up 55-47 and Alford called a timeout with 10:09 to play.
The Lobos got into the bonus with 8:49 to play when Gary was fouled on a drive. He dropped down two free shots and UNM was down 55-49.
Tyrone Shelley pushed the Aztecs up 58-49 with a trey on the baseline. Hobson scored underneath to pull UNM to 58-51. A big play for the Aztecs came with 6:25 to play. Thomas had a shot tipped, but chased down the air ball and threw down a two-handed dunk to push SDSU up 60-51.
UNM's Gary scored on a layup to make it 60-53 and Fisher called a time with 4:43 to play. The Lobos needed to hit a few field goals and stop SDSU inside. The Aztecs needed to take care of the ball and hit their free throws.
The Lobos were in the game with 4:12 to play, down 61-55. Then SDSU got back-to-back layups from Thomas to explode to a 65-55 lead. Alford called a timeout at 3:23. His Lobos were down 10 on the road and not shooting well.
Hobson was fouled at the 3:12 mark. The Lobo junior missed both his free throws and SDSU's Kawhi Leonard was fouled on the rebound. He hit both ends of the one-and-one and SDSU was up 67-55. UNM's McDonald missed a trey and SDSU got a layup out of transition: 69-55. UNM was down 14 points with 2:43 to play.
The Lobos got a dunk from Brown, following a miss by Jamal Fenton. Shelton went to the line with 1:25 to play and made one - 70-58 - but SDSU got the rebound on the miss. That rebound probably killed any UNM shot at a miracle rally. The Aztecs pulled in for the 74-64 MWC win.
First Half -- SDSU 38, Lobos 36
The Lobos and the Aztecs didn't have any problem scoring early. Both teams came out hot. The Lobos got treys from McDonald and Martinez to push UNM up 11-9. UNM got a soft floater from Gary to take a 13-11 lead into the first media break.
A bank shot by Gary and a long trey by Hobson handed UNM a 20-14 lead. Fenton pushed UNM back up 23-17 with a trey off a Brown feed.
The offensive heat displayed by the two teams early, cooled down going into the third media break at 7:58. The Lobos missed a few open shots. The big Aztecs, known for their power game inside, helped the Lobos out by launching treys over the UNM zone.
Lobo Chad Adams rolled in a jumper to raise UNM to a 27-21 lead. The Aztecs then threw out an 8-0 run to grab a 29-27 lead. SDSU's White went to the bench with 5:48 to play. He did not return.
The Aztecs went up 36-31 on a 3-pointer by D.J. Gay and were up 38-33 on a jumper by Chase Tapley. The Lobos formed the 38-36 halftime score off the 3-pointer version of the pick-and-roll.
Martinez set a high pick for Gary, rolled open near the top of the key, accepted the Gary pass, and drilled the long trey. The Lobo senior scored only one field goal after that bomb.