Jan. 15, 2011
Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: San Diego State 87, Lobos 77
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In a way, it was exactly the San Diego State team the Lobos expected to see: talented and relentless in the paint, long and nasty on perimeter defense. In another way, the Aztecs surprised the Lobos by tossing in 13 3-pointers and getting 30 points from guard D.J. Gay.
You combine Gay's perimeter work with 19 points and 15 rebounds from Kawhi Leonard and you get a convincing 87-77 Pit win by an Aztecs team that looked very much like the No. 6 ranked team in the nation. You win in The Pit by 10, you got something! You snap the Lobos 16-game win streak in The Pit, you got something!
"That's as good as I've seen them play," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "We caught them on a really good night and they are a very good basketball team.
"I thought our guys did a tremendous job. I thought our guys worked awfully hard inside. Our Bigs battled."
For sure, the Lobos didn't go down without a fight and had a one-two punch to equal the one thrown out by the Aztecs. Lobo Drew Gordon powered for 23 points and 14 rebounds to more than match Leonard's inside work. UNM senior Dairese Gary also had 23 points and seven assists.
The Aztecs' edge down the stretch was grabbing a 61-43 lead near the halfway mark of the second half. The Aztecs were simply too good for UNM to climb out of that hole. "We battled back and that's what we want them doing," said Alford, whose Lobos closed the gap to 85-77 with 45 seconds to play.
The Lobos ended the game shooting 37.9 percent from the field to 49.1 percent for the Aztecs. The Aztecs' athleticism and size seem to bother the Lobos' perimeter shooting most of the night and a lot of UNM's outside shots fell in a desperation surge to catch SDSU down the stretch run.
"I think this is as good a defensive team as we have played all season," Alford said of SDSU. "That's what makes them scary. You have to be able to score and make some shots, but you also have to be able to defend. They do both very well."
The Lobos hung with SDSU on the boards, losing that battle 40-35. UNM had an edge at the line making 26-of-35 to 20-of-29 for SDSU. The Aztecs did a good job of making free throws down the stretch when the Lobos were forced to send Aztecs to the line.
The Lobos got another outstanding performance inside from Gordon, who said going into the game that he would not be intimidated by the Aztecs' front line of Leonard and Malcolm Thomas. Gordon had more points than both of those Aztecs, outrebounded Thomas, and lost by one on the glass to Leonard.
"Drew was outstanding. I like his aggressiveness. He went right at them," said Alford. "And Dairese busted his tail again for us."
Gary looked a bit worn at the end as he played 39 minutes, as did SDSU's Gay. Gary's backup, Jamal Fenton, is still on the sidelines nursing a leg bruise. "We only have five turnovers playing a team with that much talent," said Alford.
The loss dropped UNM to 13-5 on the season and 1-2 in Mountain West play. The Lobos face one of the league's toughest road swings next week with games at Utah and at UNLV. SDSU is 19-0, still riding the nation's longest win streak. The Aztecs are 4-0 in the MWC race with three road wins.
Second Half: San Diego State 50, Lobos 48
The first few minutes of the first half actually was a reflection of how good the Aztecs are, because the Lobos opened the half playing intense, hard and getting power buckets inside from Gordon. Still, UNM went into the first media break down 47-37.
The Lobos' problem? Gay was still hot from the 3-point line. His sixth trey put SDSU up 47-37. The Lobos also were not scoring well on the perimeter.
A huge play for UNM in that stretch was Gordon soaring high above the rim, reaching out to his right, and slamming down a Alex Kirk miss. It was an ESPN highlight-type dunk.
Hardeman scored inside off a Gordon assist to pull UNM to 48-39. SDSU then got a baseline jumper from Chase Tapley and a Billy White trey to go up 53-39.
The Lobos got SDSU to call a timeout after Gary scored four straight points to pull the Lobos to 61-47. It was still a healthy lead in The Pit for any visitor, but the Aztecs had Thomas on the bench with four fouls. SDSU also didn't want the Lobos to get on a run.
The Aztecs came out of their huddle and got a trey from Gay: 64-47. UNM answered with a huge trey from Tony Snell: 64-50. With 7:26 to play, the Aztecs were up by 14 points. The Lobos cut it to 13 points on a trey by Gary: 65-53.
Gay then missed two free throws for SDSU and Williams made two for the Lobos: 65-55. UNM was cutting into that huge SDSU lead and The Pit was getting into it. The Lobos were scoring well on their end, but having trouble with Leonard on the other end. Leonard threw down a dunk and later hit a trey at the top of the key to push the Aztecs up 74-61.
The Lobos were hanging in there off treys by Snell and Gary. Gordon drove, scored, got fouled,, and made the free shot to make it 74-64.
Leonard probably iced the game at 2:11 with two free throws to push SDSU up by 12 points, 76-64. The Lobos needed to throw out some magic from the 3-point line and have Aztecs brick at the line. Gary put Leonard on the bench with five fouls on a drive at 1:56. It was the first time this season Leonard fouled out.
Gary made his two free throws: 76-66. UNM sent Gay to the line at 1:46. He made one: 77-66. Gary found Gordon inside for a dunk at 1:31: 77-68. UNM fouled Chase Tapley at 1:30. Tapley made two: 79-68. Gary missed on a drive and Gay knocked down two free throws: 81-68. The Aztecs were making their free throws.
Williams hit three free throws followed by two free throws by SDSU's Gay: 83-71. Gary came down and threw in a long trey to pull the Lobos to 83-74 with 56.3 ticks to go. UNM called time. SDSU's Thomas made two free throws with 54.7 seconds to play: 85-74. Williams threw in a long trey: 85-77 with 45 seconds to go. Gay made two free throws with 45 seconds to play and SDSU was back up by 10, 87-77.
The Lobos missed on treys by Williams and Gary and when SDSU controlled the board, UNM let the Aztecs run out the clock.
First Half: San Diego State 37, Lobos 29
Lobo Stat Leaders: Gordon 10 pts., 5 rebs.; Gary 8 pts.; Hardeman 5 pts., 5 rebs.
San Diego State's D.J. Gay knocked down two 3-pointer to close the first half - the second from beyond the half-court line -- to hand the Aztecs their 37-29 halftime lead. The Lobos' edge came at the line where they were 12-of-19 to 1-of-5 for SDSU. The Aztecs had five more 3-pointers. UNM opened the game shooting 3-of-18 from the field.
The Lobos did a good job matching the Aztecs' physicality inside and actually outscored SDSU in the paint, 12 points to 10. It was a clean first half with UNM turning the ball over twice and SDSU committing five turnovers. The Lobos hurt themselves by shooting 29.7 percent from the field, while the Aztecs shot a hot 48.4 percent. SDSU won the glass war, 24-19.
The Lobos controlled the scoreboard early. At the first media break, UNM leaned on a 3-pointer by Gary to carry a 5-4 lead into the Lobo huddle. UNM actually was shooting only 1-of-7 from the floor at that point, but also netted two free throws by McDonald. SDSU was 2-of-7 from the field.
Gary was fouled in transition at 15:04. He knocked down both shots from the line to push UNM up 7-4. McDonald got an offensive board off a Gary miss and forced up a shot in SDSU traffic, but was fouled in the attempt. He made both free shots: 9-4. Gary scored UNM's second field goal and his second of the game and UNM was up 11-6.
The Lobos finally got someone else into the act besides Gary. Hardeman slipped open behind the SDSU defense and Cameron Bairstow penetrated and found his teammate underneath. Hardeman scored off the glass.
UNM went into the 11:52 media stop up 13-6. The Lobos were doing a good job controlling SDSU inside and the Aztecs were not hitting from the edge. That ended quickly as SDSU went backdoor and got a layup: 13-8. Leonard then popped out and hit a quick 16-footer: 13-10. Tapley then banged in a trey from the baseline in front of the UNM bench: 13-all.
Gary missed a long trey and SDSU scored on the other side when Leonard powered for a rebound and then whirled past the UNM defense for a layup. SDSU was up 15-13. Alford called time. Gary missed on a drive, but Tapley didn't miss on a long trey: 18-13.
Hardeman was pounded on a drive and ended the Aztecs run at the free-throw line making one: 18-14. Tapley continued to burn UNM. He popped in a pull-up jumper : 20-14. Hardeman scored on a putback: 20-16.
The Lobos used the line to cut SDSU's lead to 21-19. Leonard got behind the Lobo defense for a layup to extend SDSU's lead to 23-19. A Lobo miss turned into a Shelton layup on a drive: 25-19. Gordon threw in a flip hook: 25-21.
Gordon got The Pit pumped by slamming down a dunk off a Williams' feed to pull UNM to 25-23. A 3-pointer by SDSU's Gay handed the Aztecs a 28-24 lead at the 3:49 break. Gordon scored inside on nice reverse move under the glass: 28-27.
A trey rattled in for Gay: 31-27. Gordon threw in a jump hook 31-29. Another Gay trey made it 34-29. The Lobos got a tough baseline look on a trey by McDonald. He missed and SDSU had a quick outlet to Gay, who launched about eight feet before the half court line. He swished it to give the Aztecs a 37-29 halftime lead.