Jan. 17, 2009
Saturday: Lobos 81, BYU 62
Up Next: Lobos at San Diego State, Tuesday
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There definitely is a message to the rest of the Mountain West Conference in the Lobos' 81-62 pounding of the Brigham Young Cougars Saturday afternoon in The Pit. "Watch out," might be a simple way to sum it up. These Lobos can be nasty at home.
But there also is a message for Steve Alford's Lobos in this win. Hey, if you can beat arguably the best team in the MWC in The Pit by 19 points, then why not keep playing like that and beat everyone else that comes to The Pit, too?
The Lobos definitely were home-court tough against BYU as UNM put together one of its most complete games of the season. "Obviously, a huge win for us," said Alford, who saw his Lobos to to 11-7 and 2-1 in MWC play. "I thought we really put together 40 minutes of good concentrated effort. To do some of the things we did, was impressive."
The margin of victory for UNM definitely was impressive, but so was the Lobos' effort in doing so many little things to bring the Cougars to their knees. The Lobos showed good movement on offense, great help on defense, took care of the basketball, took good shots, and made big shots.
Probably the final dagger on the scoreboard for BYU came with 4:11 to play. BYU had just missed an open jumper and Lobo Dairese Gary drove the lane for the Lobos with the shot clock winding down. The Lobo sophomore was cut off by the Cougars' interior defense and he kicked the ball out to junior Roman Martinez on the right side. He buried the trey and UNM was up 73-57.
"That was a big momentum shift for us," said Lobo center Daniel Faris, who led all scorers with 19 points. "He (Martinez) was going off in the second half."
BYU came down after Martinez's trey and Cougar Jonathan Tavernari was called for traveling. He made things worse for his team by adding a technical foul to his walk.
Chad Toppert made the two technical freebies and UNM was up 75-57 and in possession of the ball. Martinez was then sent to the free throw line, made one, and UNM had a fat 76-57 lead with 3:36 to play. The Lobos cruised to the 81-62 final to snap a six-game losing streak to BYU.
"I thought he was crucial," said Alford of Martinez. "I thought he was as good as anybody in the second half and had as much to do with us winning as anyone else." Said the always-humble Martinez: "I had some open shots and that helped."
Martinez finished with a solid stat line of 15 points and seven rebounds. Senior Tony Danridge had 13 points, eight rebounds and no turnovers. Toppert went 3-of-5 from behind the line to finish with 15 points, five rebounds and no turnovers. Freshman Nate Garth had a nice floor game with six assists to one turnover. Gary had eight points, two assists and two steals.
The Lobos had only seven turnovers (season low) to 14 for BYU. UNM lost the board battle to the bigger Cougars by only one, 35-to-34. The Lobos shot 53.1 percent in the first half and 44.8 percent for the game. BYU shot 38.9 percent (season low) for the game and 28.6 percent from 3-point range. The Lobos went 88 percent from the line (22-of-25) with Faris going 7-of-7.
Alford thought a key for his team defensively was taking away BYU's fast break opportunities and forcing Cougars to make more difficult shots. "If you are going to have an empty possession," he said, "you have to come back down and make a stop. And we did that."
The UNM coach also said the Pit crowd of 15,277 was important to the sustained effort of his Lobos. "They feed upon this crowd," said Alford of his players. "The crowd continues to get better, continues to get more vocal."
Said Faris: "We have the best fans in the nation, hands down. That is something truly special and truly unique and I'm just happy to be a part of it."
The Cougars, down 41-34 at the half, came out with a more disciplined attack early in the second half. A small Cougar run cut UNM's lead to 42-41 and at the 17:22 mark Coach Alford called a timeout.
BYU's Jimmer Fredette tied it at 44-all with a trey and Martinez came back with a baseline bomb to put UNM up 47-44. BYU opened the second half shooting 4-of-5, 80 percent. UNM was 1-of-7 for 14.3 percent.
The Lobos got some nice separation going into the 10:46 timeout holding a 60-51 lead. UNM got a two-pointer from Toppert, another trey from Martinez and a Toppert trey at 10:55 to form the nine-point bulge. Freshman Will Brown pulled down a nice offensive rebound and rolled in a hook to pad UNM's lead to 62-51 with 10:05 to go.
"It was important for us to take their biggest punch and we did that," said Martinez. "I think the pace of the game went our way."
Garth drove and got fouled at 9:17, made two, and UNM was up 64-51. The Lobos carried a 66-55 lead into a media timeout at 7:59 and still were up by 11 points, 68-57, when BYU called a 30-second timeout at 6:06.
Faris got fouled on a power move to his right at 5:36. He hit both free shots and the Lobos were up 70-57. Time was about to run on the frustrated Cougars, down 13 points in The Pit.
Alford said before the game that he wanted a good start against the Cougars and he got that in the first half, but mostly from Faris. The Lobos didn't hesitate to toss the ball inside to their 6-foot-9 senior and Faris didn't hesitate in attacking the basket.
He scored on a hook and a put-back and also added four free throws. At the 15:52 timeout in the first half, UNM led 7-3 with all seven points coming from Faris. BYU's lone basket was a trey from Tavernari on the left baseline. BYU opened the game shooting 1-of-7 from the floor.
Toppert knocked in a trey and Faris threw down two jumpers to surge UNM to a 26-21 lead. The Pit became a roar. The Lobos, who started the game 2-of-9 from the field, were shooting 52.4 percent at that mark to 37.5 percent for BYU.
The Lobos went into the 6:58 timeout up 26-21 and came out of that break with Martinez at the line. The junior from El Paso made them both and UNM was up 28-21. Toppert came off a screen near the top of the key and floated in a long trey to make it 31-23. Fredette then scored five unanswered points to pull BYU to 31-28.
UNM's Phillip McDonald missed a trey from the right baseline and UNM's Gary came up with the loose ball, drove to his left, and floated a left-handed shot over the BYU trees to hand UNM a 33-28 lead at the 3:56 timeout. UNM was shooting 48.1 percent at that point and BYU was at 40.7 percent.
The Lobos still held a five-point lead at the 1:12 mark and Alford called a timeout. Danridge rolled in a reverse layup to push UNM up 41-34. The Lobos had the ball for the final offensive set of the first half, but failed to score and the 41-34 lead held up to form the halftime count.
UNM was paced in the first half by Faris with 13 points followed by Danridge and Toppert with eight points apiece. UNM ended the half shooting 53.1 percent to 40 percent for the visitors from Provo, Utah. The board count was 18-16 in favor of BYU. The shooting percentage was the biggest factor at that point, the difference produced by UNM's quickness and aggression at both ends of the court.
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