Feb. 11, 2010
Wednesday: Lobos 76, UNLV 66
Saturday: Lobos at Utah, 7 p.m., Salt Lake City
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Huge. Massive. Mountain West-shattering. Resilient. Balanced. Wet-leather tough. Unbelievable?
That last word came out of the mouth of Lobos coach Steve Alford following his New Mexico Lobos' MWC-shaking and maybe unexpected 76-66 win over the UNLV Runnin' Rebels Wednesday night in Vegas.
But is anything these unbelievable Lobos do unbelievable? Maybe not anymore. The Lobos beat down their fifth ranked team of the season and stormed into first place in the Mountain West. UNM is 22-3 and 8-2 in league play.
"We are 5-0 against nationally-ranked, Top 25 teams," said Alford. "I don't know if anyone else can say that. What these guys have done is remarkable. We led from start to finish. It was an impressive night. I thought we played outstanding basketball."
"I thought Darington was outstanding," said Alford. "He did that in 23 minutes. He was incredible, but this definitely was a team effort."
There were so many impressive things the Lobos did on this special night in the Thomas & Mack Center which was rocking (18,044) with animosity toward these baby-faced assassins from New Mexico.
The Lobos went up by 15 points in the first half - impressive.
The Lobos went up by 18 points in the second half - impressive.
The Lobos let the Rebs cut UNM's lead to 65-63 with 3:38 to play and raced away to a 10-point win - more impressive.
"We had a little run, but they had a great run in the first half and a great run in the second half and we withstood them both," said Alford. "We haven't been a good road team. We've been a great road team."
The Lobos were on fire from the floor shooting 45.6 percent overall and 52.4 percent from behind the line. Amazingly, UNM is shooting better away from The Pit in MWC games.
"I don't know. I really don't know how to explain it," said Alford of his road gunners. "This team has just been this way. And this is the best team we've played on the road."
The Lobos came out and played some smash-mouth ball early. The Lobos jumped up 27-12. Vegas then made a run and cut the gap to 31-25. No big deal. UNM ran to a 38-25 lead. UNM pulled into the half up 40-28.
The Lobos looked like they might blow the Rebs off their own court in the second half. UNM surged to a 61-43 lead with 11:40 to play. Then here came the Rebels.
The Lobo Stat Sheet
Martinez -- 16 pts, 9 rebs
Hobson -- 16 pts, 13 rebs
Gary -- 15 pts, 2 rebs
McDonald -- 13 pts, 8 rebs
Garth -- 8 pts, 1 reb
Hardeman -- 4 pts, 6 rebs
Brown -- 4 pts, 1 reb
Fenton -- 0 pts, 1 reb
UNLV rolled out a 20-4 run. The home team cut UNM's gap to two points: 65-63. So, would the young Lobos roll over to the pressure of the Rebs and the pressure of Thomas & Mack.
No way. "Sometimes I think when teams get on runs, coaches panic, players panic," said Alford. "We just kept telling our guys to stay poised, stay clam, stay tough."
Alford also might have told his Lobos to hit some big shots. They did.
UNM got a huge rebound and a quick hoop from Hobson under the glass off his own miss. UNM was up 67-63. Reb Tre'Von Willis turned the ball over off pressure from Gary.
Hobson then drove and kicked off to McDonald on the left baseline. The sophomore buried the trey and UNM was up 70-63. "I thought Phillip did a great job and Ro (Martinez) hit big shot after big shot," said Alford..
Vegas cut UNM's lead to 70-66 on a 3-pointer by Matt Shaw. UNM got a layup from A.J. Hardeman off an offensive rebound: 72-66 with 1:35 to play. Vegas missed, Hobson got the board and Gary went to the line with 57 ticks to go.
The tough junior hit them both: 74-66. Gary finished off the Rebels from the line with two more free throws with 26 seconds to play. That ended it.
"When it gets tight, Dairese does what he has to do," said Alford. "He goes to the line nine times and he makes all nine of those. Dairese is one of those point guards you don't want to play against. He has a knack of willing his team to victory."
Hobson has a similar knack. He added 13 rebounds and four assists to his 16 points. Martinez had nine boards. McDonald had eight. Rebounds were huge in this game.
UNM had 45 boards, 17 offensive. UNLV had 23 boards, eight offensive. UNM had 19 second-chance points. The Rebs had two.
Alford said his strategy was to spread the Rebels' out, drive `em, and kick it out when necessary. The kick outs had good results. UNM was 11-of-21 from behind the line. UNLV was 10-of-30.
"We let our talent play tonight," said Alford. "We didn't run a lot of sets. It was pretty much ball screens all night. We wanted to get away from passing the ball and dribble-drive and it worked.
"We're pretty excited right now. We're in first place all by ourselves right now with BYU in a bye. This was a big, big road win for us. This was a tremendous performance by everyone tonight."
UNM moved into sole possession of first place in the MWC at 8-2. UNLV falls to 19-5 and 7-3 in the MWC.
Lobo Notes: Ex-Lobo and Indiana Pacers' superstar, Danny Granger, was sitting behind the UNM bench. ... The first half of the Lobo/UNLV game didn't made the tube as the Utah/TCU women's game went into four overtimes.