Stevens: Gordon scores 11 in Pit Debut & 84-58 Romp of Citadel
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/19/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 19, 2010

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Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Lobos 84, Citadel 58
Wednesday: 8 p.m. (MT), vs. Colorado in Las Vegas / New Orleans Arena
On The Air: CBS-C (TV); 770-AM KKOB / Lobo Radio Network
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer / GoLobos.com

The Pit debut of Drew Gordon had a few hiccups. Well, actually it was Gordon who had a few hiccups. And some almost-disappearing gum, too.

"I got the hiccups from not being able to breathe," the 6-foot-9 center, who scored 11 points in New Mexico's 84-58 romp over Citadel Sunday in University Arena. "After I dunked it, I wanted to get subbed out, I was so tired."

Gordon also said he thinks his gum "dissolved" in his mouth because he was chomping on it so hard and so much. Nerves? Maybe a bit. But mostly Gordon was anxious, excited and chomping on the bit to join his Lobo teammates in a run in The Pit.

The transfer from UCLA had to sit out 13 months after coming to Steve Alford's UNM program. He got in 20 minutes Sunday and also got a reminder from The Pit as to why he wanted to become a Lobo in the first place.

When Gordon entered the game at the first media break of the first half, The Pit stood and welcomed the big Lobo. "The ovation I got was amazing," said Gordon. "I can't really put it into words. We have great fans and I'll forever say that they are the best fans that anybody can ask for."

The Pit got an even better reason to rock for Gordon when he scored his first Pit bucket - a monster, two-handed dunk -- off a steal and feed by Jamal Fenton. Gordon said there is still some footage on YouTube of him blowing a dunk at UCLA. "I didn't want to repeat," he said.

Gordon says he has a ways to go to shake off the dust and the rust of 13 months on the sidelines. The Lobos (9-1) had a few minutes to play against Citadel before they shook off the Bulldogs with a couple of resounding runs.

The finish for the Lobos came late and early - late in the first half, and early in the second half. UNM threw out a 20-to-9 run to close the first half and went into the 14:35 break of the second half on a 16-2 run. The leads formed by those runs were 42-32 at the half and 58-34. That 24-point bulge ended it.

The highlight of that 16-2 run was Phillip McDonald throwing out a head fake on the baseline, beating his defender, and sprinting to the glass. It looked like McDonald would toss up a layup, but instead the junior soared and threw down a monster, one-handed jam. The Pit went nuts. "I just took it," said McDonald.

The Lobos led 67-42 at the 7:51 break - 25 points. UNM coasted in to the 84-58 final. "The start of the second half was much better than the start of first half," said Alford.

The Lobos had four players in double figures with McDonald leading the way with 17 points. A.J. Hardeman muscled for 12, Chad Adams had 11 points, going 3-of-3 from 3-point range and Gordon came off the bench to score 11.

"The difference in Chad is he's taking good shots," said Alford. "When Chad takes good shots, he's as good a shooter as anyone on the team."

The Lobos depth once again proved to be a factor in adding points to the scoreboard and wearing down the visiting Bulldogs. The Lobos got 35 points off the bench and two double-figure scorers off the wood.

"There is no drop when we go to the bench," said Alford. "I think you are seeing that in the second half."

The Lobos shot 50.9 percent to 42.6 percent for Citadel, which was led by Austin Dahn with 15 points and Mike Groselle with 14 points. UNM won the board battle 35-26.

Gordon, and the Lobos' inside, will get a more serious test when the Las Vegas Classic moves to the New Orleans Arena and UNM plays Colorado and, if the Lobos beat Colorado, likely Indiana.

The Las Vegas Classic opened with on-campus games and now moves the eight teams to the New Orleans in Vegas on Wednesday and Thursday. The Lobos are in a four-team bracket in Vegas with Colorado, Indiana and Northern Iowa. The Lobos open their Vegas act with Colorado on Wednesday. The losers play at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday with the winners going at 8 p.m. (MT).

Alford said his Lobos have been playing solid opponents, but "that goes up a notch in Vegas."

The runs in Vegas will give Alford back-to-back games to improve Gordon's legs and lungs. The good thing about working Gordon into the lineup is the solid UNM depth inside with 6-9 Hardeman, 6-11 Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow.

"I just have to get the game touch back," said Gordon. "There is a big difference between game speed and practice speed. But I haven't fallen that far behind."

First Half: Lobos 42, Citadel 32
Stat Leaders: Hardeman 8 pts., Gary 5 pts., McDonald 5 pts., 6 rebs.

Citadel did a good job handling UNM's pressure defense and not allowing UNM to roll out any scoring runs - until the final few minutes of the half. Citadel missed nine of its last ten shots of the half and the Lobos did a nice job scoring inside to help form the 42-32 halftime score.

Citadel was shooting 53.3 percent (8-of-15) at the 7:33 mark, but ended at 36 percent (9-of-25). The Lobos shot 48.5 percent with 10 Lobos hitting the scoring charts. Hardeman led the way inside with eight points. McDonald had six boards at the half. Citadel got 10 points from Austin Dahn and nine points from Mike Groselle. UNM had a 23-15 lead on the glass. Citadel was 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

The Lobos jumped out to a 9-6 lead at the first media break at 14:45. Williams and Hardeman scored on layups and Hardeman added a baseline jumper before McDonald got UNM to nine with a trey from the right baseline. Citadel went 2-of-2 from long range to form the 9-6 score.

The break also pushed Gordon into official action as a Lobo. He got a standing ovation from The Pit, a reminder of why so many players want to be Lobos. His first shot as a Lobo rolled off the rim. McDonald soared and turned the garbage into a dunk. Citadel banged in another trey to make it 3-of-3 going into the 11:41 break. The teams were knotted at 14-all.

Gordon's first points as a Lobo came with a little help from the littlest Lobo. A Fenton steal and feed gave Gordon a two-handed, breakaway dunk. UNM got buckets from Fenton, Tony Snell and a tip from Cameron Bairstow going into the 7:33 break down 23-22. Citadel was doing a good job of handling UNM's pressure defense and not allowing the Lobos any scoring runs.

Citadel was shooting 53.3 percent from the floor at that break while UNM was 43.5 percent. Citadel was 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

The Lobos formed a seven-point gap at the 2:13 break. UNM got two inside buckets from Hardeman and another from Gordon. Chad Adams also cracked the scoreboard with a trey off the right wing.

The Lobos extended their lead to 41-30 on a strong inside move by Emmanuel Negedu. He added a free throw to make it 42-30. UNM went into the half up 42-32. Citadel missed nine of the last ten shots of the half.