Stevens: Dairese Gary Sets MWC Assist Mark in 82-72 Loss at Utah
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/19/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 19, 2011

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Lobo Men's Basketball - At Utah
Utah 82, Lobos 72
Saturday: 2 p.m., Lobos at UNLV

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer / GoLobos.com

In the toughness department, the Lobos had an obvious winner in senior Dairese Gary, who took to the Utah Utes' court battling the flu and probably should have been in a bed rather than dealing with the wrath of the Huntsman Center.

Still, Gary threw down 15 points in 35 minutes of court time, had three steals and dished out five assists to become the Mountain West Conference's all-time assist leader in a MWC game that leaned heavily toward the Utah Utes, 82-72.

"I can't say enough about Dairese Gary," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "Dairese was sick, but he keeps battling. (The assist mark) speaks volumes for what he is as a leader, and what he has become as a player. He has the youngest team in the league to lead and that's a tough job."

That job was really tough Wednesday in Salt Lake City as the Utes scored inside and outside in rolling to a 20-point, second-half lead and holding on for the 10-point win. The Utes got a huge edge from long range where they shot 10-of-19 compared to 5-of-17 for the Lobos.

"Opponents of late are making a lot of threes against us and we're not making many," said Alford. "That affects what we do inside. It gets that much tougher going to UNLV because they play an aggressive man-to-man and are tough at home."

The loss drops UNM to 13-6 on the year and into a 1-3 MWC hole going at a UNLV Rebels team that had been ranked in the Top 25 this season and still might be if it wasn't for losses to No. 6 San Diego State and No. 9 Brigham Young. However, the Rebs looked more than vulnerable Wednesday night losing 78-63 to Colorado State in Vegas.

The Lobos had four players in double figures. Kendall Williams had 18, Gary had 15, Drew Gordon added 12 and Phillip McDonald scored 11 points. Gordon was UNM's top board man with seven. Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow each had five boards coming off the bench and McDonald added five rebounds.

Utah got 22 points from point guard Josh Watkins, 18 from freshman J.J. O'Brien and 12 from Shawn Glover, who went 4-of-7 from behind the line. Utah shot 51 percent from the floor and 52.6 percent from 3-point range. The Utes went 18-of-26 from the free-throw line to 13-of-21 for UNM. The teams ended tied on the glass, 36-all. Utah had 14 assists to nine for the Lobos.

"We didn't play very well," said Alford. "But I thought Utah played extremely well. This league is hard to get road wins. You have to do the little things to get road wins and we didn't do that.

"We're not a very confident group right now and we have to figure that out."

Gary had been ill for a couple of days, but would not stay on the bench. Alford said he asked his senior leader several times in the second half to take a seat on the bench, but Gary wouldn't leave the floor. UNM also was hurt at the point as Gary's sub, Jamal Fenton, didn't play against Utah, still nursing a calf bruise.

That point position will be critical against a guard-heavy UNLV team that attacks out of an aggressive man-to-man and loves to run, run, run.

The Utes weren't bothered much by the UNM defense as the Utes hit their treys and did a good job of attacking the basket. Utah's 7-foot-3 David Foster had eight boards and three blocks, but his height bothered several other UNM shots inside.

Utah went up by 19 points in the first half and held a 70-50 lead with 6:00 to play before UNM threw out a little run to make the final score more respectable.

"You can't get down 20 points on the road," said Alford. "That puts a lot of stress on you. Somehow, someway, we have to get some confidence and get some guys making shots."

Second Half: Lobos 41, Utah 37

The Lobos came out in the second half switching out of a zone into a man-to-man defense. The Utes got a single trey off that UNM defense, but when the Utah gap fell to 48-37 after a Kirk block led to a McDonald layup, Utah called a timeout. Utah came out of their huddle and got a quick bucket, but a Gary steal and a layup cut Utah's lead to 50-41 and Utah went to another timeout.

The Utes came out playing more aggressive on offense. Watkins threw in a trey and then scored on a layup to push Utah up 55-41. UNM got a post move from Gordon to go into the 12:58 media break down 55-43. The Lobos had cut their 14-point hole to 12 points, but still had some additional cutting to do.

The Utes had other ideas and a Glover 3-pointer followed by a Foster dunk on a follow put Utah up 60-43 - 17 points. Gordon scored inside on a reverse layup to make it 60-45 going into a break at 11:00.

The two teams then went back and forth on the scoreboard. O'Brien scored on a drive to push Utah up 63-46 after adding a free throw. Gary score on a drive to pull UNM to 63-50. That score held going into the 7:36 break with O'Brien at the line coming out of the huddle.

O'Brien scored two at the line: 65-50, 15 points. Gordon got tied up at the other end, lost the ball on the possession arrow, and Clyburn scored on a drive: 67-50. When Watkins scored on a layup to make it 69-50, Alford called time with his Lobos down 19 points.

The Lobos got called for a technical foul and Utah used the line to go up 70-50, 20 points with less than six minutes to play. Utah called time with 5:15 to go. A William's trey had the scoreboard at 70-53 in Utah's favor.

Lobo junior Drew Gordon pulls down a tough rebound vs. Utah

The Lobos then threw out a much-needed run. Williams got a steal that led to a Tony Snell trey: 70-56. Utah missed on a drive and A.J. Hardeman got a single free throw: 70-57 (13). Utah moved the scoreboard to 72-57 on a Watkins drive. He added a free throw: 73-57.

Gary then threw down a trey from the baseline: 73-60. Utah missed and Gary fed McDonald for a transition layup: 73-62. McDonald added a free throw to cut Utah's 20-point lead to ten at 73-63. Utah needed to get to the free throw line and make some shots.

Instead, Utah turned the ball over and Gary got bumped on a drive. The Lobo senior hit two free throws: 73-65 - Utah's lead was down to eight points with 3:15 to play. Foster got to the line and made one: 74-65. UNM missed long and Utah's Watkins got fouled. The Utah guard hit two: 76-65 at 2:48.

UNM's Snell scored on a dunk to make it 76-67 and he sent Utah's Foster to the bench with five fouls. Utah's Watkins went back to the line at 2:06 sending Hardeman to the bench with five fouls. Watkins made one: 77-67.

UNM's Williams got called for a walk on a head fake under the basket. UNM put Watkins back on the line and he made two with 1:58 to play. It was 79-67 and that was pretty much ended any hopes for a Lobo miracle finish. Utah cruised to the 82-72 final.

First Half: Utah 45, Lobos 31
Lobo Stat Leaders:
Williams 7 pts., Hardeman 6 pts., Gary 6 pts., Gordon, 6 pts.

The Lobos had the best long shot of the half when Williams threw in a buzzer-beating bomb just shy of half court that looked a lot like the one SDSU's D.J. Gay threw in over the Lobos in The Pit. However, Williams' 3-pointer came off the glass and allowed the Lobos to go into the half down 14 points instead of 17. It was UNM's only trey of the half.

Most of the other good shots in the first 20 minutes came from the red-hot Utes, who shot 55 percent from the floor and 58 percent (7-of-12) from behind the line.

The Utes were doing a good job of throwing a balanced attack at UNM as Utah attacked the glass and launched well from the outside. The Lobos cut Utah's lead to 37-26 on a score by Hardeman underneath. Utah then scored back-to-back buckets to go up 41-26 with 2:31 to play and Alford called for a timeout.

The Utes were up 45-26 before Williams came up with a steal and a dunk and then threw in his bomb at the buzzer.