Jan. 5, 2011
Lobo Men's Basketball -- In The Pit
Wednesday: Lobos 102, Cal State Bakersfield 62
Up Next: Lobos at Wyoming, Saturday - Laramie
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
You come into The Pit with an incomplete game and the response from the pretty-complete Lobos is a 102-62 beat down.
You especially get that response if the Lobos have an inside giant of a freshman named Alex Kirk throwing down a UNM freshman record of 31 points. "I'm not the easiest guy to impress, but that was impressive," said Lobo Steve Alford referring to the 40-point win more so than Kirk's 31 points.
There was no doubt that Kirk and his stat line were impressive even against a Cal State Bakersfield team that had almost nothing inside. The Los Alamos High product went 11-of-13 from the field, 7-of-8 from the line and hauled down six boards.
And get this: Kirk did his Goliath thing in only 21 minutes to break the previous UNM freshman record of 30 points set by Kenny Thomas in 1996 in the Western Athletic Conference championship game. "I know that Kenny Thomas was a great player," said Kirk. "I didn't even think about (the record). I was open and the guards got me the ball and I just kept playing."
Said Alford: "We knew we had a special player but, on the bench (Alex) was just smiling because he was almost in disbelief himself."
Kirk wasn't the only Lobo with some monster stats in this monster of a Pit romp. Dairese Gary had 15 points, five assists and no turnovers. Freshman Kendall Williams had 10 assists and four steals. Junior transfer Drew Gordon had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
"I thought we played extremely well," said Alford. "I was so happy and so proud of them during this game. That was 40 minutes of really good basketball. I thought this was (Gordon's) best minutes by far."
The jump-shot happy Roadrunners, who launched 29 treys, hung around until the Lobos decided to intensify their perimeter defense, fight through some picks, and force the Roadrunners to try something else besides wide-open bombs. The Roadrunners didn't have anything else, getting one field goal from their two starting inside players. The bright spot for Bakersfield was Robert Hayes going 4-of-5 from behind the line to finish with 16 points.
The Lobos shot 52.8 percent in the first half and 62.3 percent in the second half to finish at 56.7 percent. Gary went 6-of-7 from the field and UNM shot 18-of-24 from the line. UNM had 26 assists.
"We made shots and obviously when we make shots we are very good," said Alford.
Lobo shots often fall like magic from the sky when they are delivered in The Pit. The Lobos probably will not have it so easy the rest of the season and also Saturday afternoon when the Lobos open Mountain West Conference play against the injury-plagued and struggling Wyoming Cowboys.
There are bigger and better fish to fry in the MWC waters -- much better, much bigger. "(The Cowboys) have always pressed us up there and it's not an easy place to play," said Alford. "You have to fly to Denver and drive to Laramie. They are a very athletic team, but maybe not quite as deep as they have been."
Wyoming might not be a shark in the MWC tank in 2011, but the `Pokes are capable and the game will be played in Laramie against a Cowboy team coming off a 73-60 pounding at Colorado State.
The Lobos' feel-good, freshman[-fueled, romp and stomp in The Pit over the overmatched Roadrunners probably was exactly what the Lobos needed prior to leaving Albuquerque for the fifth time in six games. The Lobos came off the road with a 2-2 mark and likely needed this 40-point romp to remind themselves that they are a deep team with a lot of weapons.
The weapons that damaged the Roadrunners Wednesday were Alford's 10 scholarship players who all logged more than 12 minutes of playing time, all scored and all pulled down at least one rebound.
The Lobos really ended the night for the Roadrunners with a 16-0 first-half run that took UNM out of a 20-all tie into a 36-20 lead. UNM led 50-27 at the half. Game over.
UNM extended its bulge to 66-36 - 30 points - at the 14:46 break of the second half. At the 7:53 break, it was 88-46 and The Pit loyals began to stroll out into the cold night and away from the hot Lobos, who were rolling to their 12th win of the season. The Lobos will take a 12-3 mark to Wyoming looking to begin a title defense in a league that features three of the top teams in NCAA ball - San Diego State, Brigham Young and UNLV.
"We know we've got our hands full," said Alford.
First Half: Lobos 50, Cal State Bakersfield 27
It was a game for about half of a half. Cal State Bakersfield was efficient enough with the jumper early to grab a 17-15 lead with 11:47 to play out of the first 20 minutes. Then the Lobos clamped down on the edge and began to run, go inside - well, do about anything they wanted to do.
UNM outscored the Roadrunners 35-12 the rest of the way. A Roadrunner team without an inside game was in trouble walking up The Pit's ramp down 21 points.
The Roadrunners jumped up 6-3 using a four-point play and a layup to form that quick lead. The Lobos got a dunk from McDonald and a 3-pointer from Gary to go up 10-7. At the first media break at 14:48, the teams were knotted at 12-all.
Gary came out of the break to hit a trey near the top of the key and UNM was up 15-12. Cal-Bakersfield countered with a trey to tie the game 15-all. The Roadrunners scored inside on a post move to walk into the 11:47 break with a 17-15 lead.
The Lobos got back up, 19-17, on a Gary power drive and a transition layup from Fenton. Fenton fed Kirk inside and the 6-11 freshman got fouled at the 10:09 mark. He made one to push UNM up 20-17. The Roadrunners tied it at 20-all before Tony Snell lofted in a trey from the right baseline: 23-20. Kirk then hit a 15-footer followed by a Chad Adams' trey and UNM was up 28-20. UNM carried that gap into the 7:26 break.
The Lobos got two offensive boards and Fenton got off three shots, making the third one, a trey: 31-20. A Kirk follow on a missed follow by Adams gave UNM a 33-20 lead. The Lobos were pulling away as the Roadrunners' 3-point attack failed to produce against better UNM pressure.
Williams slipped behind the Roadrunners' defense to score in transition: 36-20. A Bakersfield trey finally broke UNM's 16-0 run: 36-23. Hardeman pushed UNM up 39-23, scoring on a baseline drive and adding a free shot. At the 2:45 break, UNM was up 45-27 on two Williams' drives and one Gary drive to the glass.
The Lobos used a Gary drive and a jumper from McDonald to go into the half up 50-29.