Dec. 2, 2010
Lobos Men's Basketball - At New Mexico State
Saturday: 7 p.m., Lobos vs. Aggies, Pan American Center
On The Air: Comcast 77; DirecTV 682; Dish 448 (Altitude 2); ESPN3, ESPN Full Court; 770-AM KKOB / Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Probably not. If anything the waters and the passion of the Pan Am Center have been stirred and the always-rowdy Aggie faithful will be coming at Alford's Lobo pups with a fiery vengeance, trying to avoid a hateful Lobo hoops sweep in the same week.
"We just played in a tough gym and we go to another tough gym," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "Our young guys are being tested this week."
The last road test was an A-plus for the 5-1 Lobos on the scoreboard. They ventured into Carbondale, Ill., onto the home floor of the Southern Illinois Salukis and came away with an impressive 74-59 road win Wednesday night.
SIU is not an easy place to win. Ditto for the Pan American Center where the NMSU student section has made this gym a colorful - and sometimes humorous - place to play if you are a Lobo.
The Aggie students usually are clever in their attack of Lobos. They also are relentless. The first-year Lobos are in for a treat, but it won't all be pleasurable.
The good thing about taking Lobos into Aggie country is it introduces the Lobos to a hostility that probably will be as high as any anti-Lobo venom the Lobos will face all season.
This is a rivalry game. This is a battle for turf and bragging rights and it's not just a passion the Lobos will see coming from the Aggie crowd.
The NMSU players get into this thing, too. They have some turf to defend and that's always motivation. They have turf to defend against Lobos. That's motivation times five.
Alford says he likes the talent the Aggies bring to the table and thinks it might be the best Aggie team he has faced as the Lobos' coach. That's not just coach-speak. NMSU has some D-I hard bodies and these Aggies are hungry for a few more wins.
The 2-5 Aggies are coming off a 74-72 heartbreaker to a good UTEP team Tuesday in Cruces. It was the type of game that should prepare the Aggies for what the Lobos will bring. NMSU lost 73-56 on Nov. 23 in El Paso. So, the Aggies are either getting better or they are passionate about defending their gym - or maybe both.
Junior forward Troy Gillenwater, who powers for 18.7 points and 8.0 boards per game, leads NMSU. Gillenwater had 22 points and 10 boards vs. UTEP. Out front, the Aggies lean to junior guard Hernst Laroche with a 10.7 scoring average complemented by 4.7 assists per game.
Laroche probably will get some face time from Lobo Dairese Gary, usually the defender Alford throws on the opposition's best guard. Laroche can dish the ball, but he also can hit the long ball, boasting a sparking 58.3 percent from behind the line.
The Lobos will pack some confidence along with their bags for this bus trip to Cruces. The win at SIU reversed a lot of bad numbers UNM posted in its 25-point loss at California. UNM is 1-1 on the road.
The Lobos are a balanced team, but the stats indicate which Lobos can most damage a team on the scoreboard. Gary is averaging 13 points and smooth Phillip McDonald scores at an 11.7 clip.
UNM lead the series 110-94 and the Lobos swept the Aggies last season, 97-87 in Cruces and 75-58 in The Pit.
The Aggies went at UTEP without center Hamidu Rahman, who sat out with a leg injury. He is listed as day-to-day for the UNM game.
The Lobos went against a good rebounding team in SIU and the Aggies also try to dominate the glass. NMSU is outrebounding opponents by a plus seven after seven games.
The Aggies are a physical and aggressive team, but they also can display that feathery touch. They shot 51.7 percent at Lafayette, 48 percent behind the 3-point line. They made 18-of-23 shots in the second half.
One of the mainstays in Alford's philosophy is defense and his young Lobos are showing improvement in that department. UNM held SIU to 37 percent shooting and SIU's top three scorers combined to score only nine points.
The Aggies need a strong game inside from Gillenwater just like SIU needed a strong game inside from 6-9 Gene Teague, who scored only three against UNM.
A few basics of UNM's game plan at NMSU are obvious: