New Year Brings Big Challenge For UNM At Wake Forest
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/31/2003
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 31, 2003

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The surging New Mexico Lobos bring in the New Year with a daunting challenge as they visit the nationally-ranked and undefeated Wake Forest Demon Deacons Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is 2 p.m. Eastern Time (noon Mountain) from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. KRQE-TV in Albuquerque will pick up the feed from Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot and televise the game live throughout New Mexico. The two schools will play in The Pit next year.

UNM is 7-3 and has won five straight - all at home - after an 82-63 decision over Penn State Monday in the championship game of the Comcast Lobo Invitational. It was head coach Ritchie McKay's 100th career win.

New Mexico is enjoying its longest winning streak - and best start - since an eight-game run during the 2001-02 season. The Lobos began 10-3 two years ago. New Mexico's seventh win last year came in the 16th game of the season, Jan. 25, against San Diego State.

Wake Forest is ranked No. 5 in this week's coaches' poll, No. 6 by AP. The Demon Deacons are 8-0 after pounding North Carolina A&T 91-67 on Tuesday. WFU is also 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, edging North Carolina 119-114 in triple overtime in Chapel Hill on Dec. 20.

Through games of Dec. 30, Wake Forest was leading the nation in scoring, averaging 92.1 points a game. All five Demon Deacon starters have double-figure scoring averages. New Mexico is allowing just 59.4 points to rank in the top-30 in the nation in scoring defense.

Wake Forest has won 21 straight home games and is 101-6 all-time at Joel Coliseum against non-ACC competition. The Deacons' last home loss was to Duke on Feb. 21, 2002.

New Mexico is playing a road game for only the second time this season, and its first outside of the state. UNM lost 67-48 at New Mexico State on Dec. 3. Including neutral sites, the Lobos have dropped 18 straight games away from Albuquerque, the program's longest drought since a 29-game skid from Jan. 10, 1957 through Dec. 29, 1959. The Lobos' last road win was Jan. 28, 2002 at Colorado State (70-64).

The Lobos are looking for the school's 1,200th win since the first game was played on Feb. 2, 1900. UNM is 1,199-949 in its 101st season. New Mexico is 781-454 since the 1962-63 season, an average of almost 19 wins a year. The Lobos have been to postseason play 26 times during that span.

The new-look Lobos have been essentially full strength since Dec. 21 when midseason transfers Troy DeVries (Portland State) and Danny Granger (Bradley) became eligible. In four games, the 6'8" Granger is averaging 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, including Most Valuable Player honors in the Lobo Invitational when he had a season-high 26 points and a Mountain West Conference record eight steals against Penn State. Granger had 16 rebounds against New Mexico State, the most caroms by a Lobo since the late Patrick Dennehy pulled down 17 against Alcorn State on Dec. 1, 2001. DeVries is averaging 12.5 points and 5.0 assists in the four wins, including 12 assists against Coppin State, the best individual total in 12 years.

UNM VS. WAKE FOREST / RANKED TEAMS / THE ACC - It's the third meeting between New Mexico and Wake Forest with each team previously winning on its home floor. UNM took a 76-71 decision at The Pit in the championship game of the 1988 Lobo Invitational. WFU won 72-65 in the second round of the 2000 postseason NIT.

New Mexico has a 47-106 all-time record against ranked teams. That breaks down to 34-48 at home, 10-50 on the road and 3-8 on neutral floors. The Lobos won their most recent game against a ranked team, defeating 22nd-ranked Utah 76-69 last season in The Pit. The last time UNM played a team ranked No. 6 or higher was Jan. 20, 2001 at Stanford. The No. 1 Cardinal won 75-44.

UNM is 3-4 in its last seven games against ranked foes. Included in that total is a 70-68 triumph at No. 2 Arizona on Dec. 21, 1999, halting the Wildcats' 37-game homecourt winning streak.

The Lobos are 2-6 against current members of the ACC. They are 1-3 versus Florida State, 1-1 against Wake Forest and 0-2 against Virginia. UNM has lost three straight games to ACC teams - once to Wake Forest and twice to the Cavaliers - since the win over the Demon Deacons in Albuquerque 15 years ago.

MORE ON THE DEMON DEACONS - WFU was 25-6 last year and won the ACC regular-season title at 13-3. The Deacons lost to Auburn 68-62 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Four starters return from that team.

Head coach Skip Prosser is 219-97 in his 11th year as a head coach, including a 54-19 mark in his third season in Winston-Salem. He is 33-3 at Joel Coliseum and has led the Demon Deacons to the second round of the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years. This is Prosser's first meeting against New Mexico.

Prosser came to Wake Forest after seven seasons at Xavier. The Musketeers advanced to postseason six times, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament. Prosser's first head coaching job was in 1993-94 at Loyola (Md.). He took over a team that had gone 2-25 the previous year and led them to a 17-13 record, an MAAC Tournament title and the school's only appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Through games of Dec. 30, Wake Forest ranked 2nd in both the Sagarin ratings and CollegeRPI.com.

Hulking sophomore center Eric Williams (6-9, 275) leads five Wake Forest players averaging in double figures at 18.0 points a game. Opponents are shooting just 30.3% from 3-point and WFU has 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes a game.

HEAD COACH Ritchie McKay - Ritchie McKay is in his second season in charge of Lobo hoops and his eighth year as a collegiate head coach. He was named UNM's 18th head coach on March 28, 2002. McKay is the son of the late Joe McKay, who was a three-year letterman at guard for the Lobos from 1961-63.

McKay had previous stops at Portland State (1996-98), Colorado State (1998-2000) and Oregon State (2000-02). He has a career record of 100-110, 17-21 at New Mexico. McKay is 13-10 in non-conference games while at UNM, 13-6 at The Pit, 0-4 on the road. This is his first meeting against Wake Forest.

While at Mountain West Conference member Colorado State, McKay led the Colorado State Rams to the NIT in 1999.

FIVE AND COUNTING - The Lobos have won five straight games by an average of 20.6 points and did not trail in any of those contests. On Dec. 8, UNM and Sacramento State were tied at 47 with 9:39 left in the game, but the Lobos went on to win 77-63. The last time New Mexico fell behind was Dec. 6 against Texas Tech. A 3-pointer gave the Red Raiders a 59-57 lead with 2:20 remaining, a game they won 67-58.

Senior Javin Tindall tied a career-high with six 3-pt. FG's against Penn State

TALK ABOUT A DISADVANTAGE - The addition of Troy DeVries and Danny Granger against Coppin State gives New Mexico 10 players on scholarship, the most for a Ritchie McKay-coached Lobo team and the highest number since 11 were available for Fran Fraschilla during the 2001-02 season. Freshman Sean Phelar is also on scholarship, but he is expected to redshirt this season. The NCAA allows a maximum of 13 scholarships.

UNM took the floor against Coppin State on Dec. 21 with nine scholarship players, the first time it had more than eight available since Nov. 25, 2002 - a span of 34 games.

New Mexico started the 2002-03 campaign with nine players on scholarship. However, in the second game of the season, senior guard Senque Carey suffered a career-ending injury, leaving UNM with just eight players on aid. After Michael McCowan quit in late-February, the Lobos finished the season with just seven on scholarship.

Also, for the first time since McKay took over at UNM, the team is now starting a power forward who is taller than 6'5". The 6'8" Granger and 6'9" David Chiotti are the Lobos' starters in the post. Jamaal Williams (6'4") was the starter at that position last year, while Alfred Neale (6'5") started there five times this season.

DEFENSE DRAMATICALLY IMPROVED - The Lobo defense has made giant strides compared to last year's team:

* UNM allowed 73.2 points last year, the highest average in 16 seasons, and opponents scored 70 or more points 17 times...through 10 games this season, the scoring defense is a stingy 59.4 ppg and only one team has surpassed 70 points against UNM...Portland scored 77 in the third game of the year

* Opponents are shooting 38.4% from the floor, and the Lobos have already held six opponents to less than 40% accuracy this season...they did that only five times all of last season when foes converted 47.7% of their shots, the highest percentage since the 1984-85 season (48.1%)...UNM has limited four of its last five foes to 38% shooting or lower

* New Mexico held Northwestern State to just 24.2% (15-62) shooting from the floor, the lowest by a Lobo opponent in six years when Yale shot 23.1% (12-52) in the championship game of the 1997 Lobo Invitational

PENN STATE RECAP / NOTES - Danny Granger scored 26 points and Javin Tindall hit six 3-pointers to lead New Mexico to an 82-63 win over Penn State in the championship game of the Comcast Lobo Invitational. Granger was named Most Valuable while Tindall and teammate Alfred Neale earned spots on the all-tournament team.

New Mexico captured its holiday tournament for the 27th time in the 39-year-history of the nation's fifth oldest in-season tournament.

The Lobos hit a season-high 16 3-pointers from a season-high 32 attempts. Tindall, who scored 20 points, matched his season high for 3s. Versatile seven-footer Jan Jagla scored 22 points to lead the Nittany Lions. Jagla, held scoreless through the first 15 minutes, scored 16 points in the final 5:06 of the first half to get Penn State within 42-33 at the break.

UNM never trailed in the game after Tindall connected on four straight 3-pointers. His last two came in the midst of an 11-0 run that put the Lobos in front 17-4. A 3-pointer by Neale gave the Lobos a 33-15 lead with 5:56 left in the opening half.

Jagla's scoring burst got the Nittany Lions back into the game and Penn State got within 46-41 early in the second half after DeForrest Riley-Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers and Marlon Smith made a short jumper. New Mexico then pulled away with a 13-0 burst that included consecutive 3-pointers by Granger, Troy DeVries and Tindall.

* New Mexico continued a recent trend by jumping out to a big early lead for the fifth straight game...UNM led 22-6 nearly nine minutes into the game and later stretched its first-half lead to 18 (33-15) at the 5:56 mark...the Lobos led Sacramento State 15-4, Coppin State 26-5, New Mexico State 31-9 and Northwestern State 21-5 in the first half...Penn State battled back however, using a 13-2 run to close to within 7 at the 2:14 mark...the Nittany Lions trailed 42-33 at the half

* The Lobos hit a season-high 16 3-pointers on the night, equaling the fourth-best effort in school history...UNM last hit 16 versus Sacramento State on Dec. 19, 1998...the school record is 18...the Lobos connected on 8 of their first 14 from 3-land in the first 14 minutes...UNM extended its streak to 406 consecutive games hitting a 3-pointer, the 11th longest run in the nation

* One night after having his 14-game 3-point shooting streak snapped (0-2 3-pt. FGs), Javin Tindall tied a career-high with 6 threes on 12 attempts (also a career-high)...Tindall finished with 20 points, his fourth game scoring 20 or more this year after posting a single-game high of just 18 last season...Tindall scored 12 points on 4-4 3-point shooting in the first five minutes of the game after scoring a total of 12 points in the past two games combined....Tindall also pulled down a career-high 5 rebounds

* UNM forward Danny Granger led New Mexico in scoring for the fourth straight game, finishing with a season-high 26 points...Granger also notched a career-high 8 steals (7 in the second half), which ties for third on the UNM single-game charts...Marlow White was the most recent Lobo to get 8 or more thefts, notching 8 vs. BYU on Feb. 4, 1995...the school record is 10 by Phil Abney in 1979...New Mexico recorded a season-high 12 steals as a team

* Penn State's 20 turnovers were the second-most by a Lobo opponent this year, two under San Francisco State's 22 miscues in the season-opener...UNM scored a whopping 40 points off the Lions' turnovers

* Lobo forward Alfred Neale recorded a career-high 7 assists, including 6 in the first half...Neale's previous best was 4 vs. New Mexico Highlands

* New Mexico had four players score in double figures for the second time this year (4 vs. Portland)...the Lobos also had two players (Granger - 26, Tindall - 20) score 20 or more points for the second time this year (Chiotti - 24, Tindall - 22 vs. Sacramento State)

LOBOS IN THE NCAA RANKINGS - Through games of Dec. 30, New Mexico ranks 10th in the nation in 3-point FGs, averaging 9.3 a game. The Lobos have canned 10 or more treys in a game six times this year. They were 5 of 26 (19%) in their only road game of the season so far, at New Mexico State on Dec. 3.