Nov. 24, 2010
LOBO MEN'S BASKETBALL VS. SAN DIEGO -- SUNDAY IN THE PIT
Sunday: 1 p.m., San Diego at Lobos
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Are the baby-faced New Mexico Lobos ready to go back on the road? Well, they will find out Wednesday when they visit Southern Illinois, but before the Lobos have to leave the warm embrace of The Pit, they'll take in one more bear hug at 1 p.m. Sunday when the San Diego Toreros visit.
The Lobos are facing a busy and challenging week with three games on the docket -- one in The Pit and two on the road. The Lobos won't get much more than a travel day and a single practice day after their visit to Southern Illinois. The Lobos step into the hostile confines of the Pan American Center on Saturday to battle the New Mexico State Aggies.
It would be nice if the Lobos had a warmup game prior to their challenging road trips, but the Toreros of San Diego traditionally throw out a team that is well-coached and capable.
Sunday's meeting will be the seventh between these two programs with UNM leading 5-2. The Lobos have a 3-1 edge in Albuquerque with all games being played in University Arena.
San Diego and UNM have played in each of the past three years with Lobo coach Steve Alford posting a 3-0 mark in those games.
The Toreros have not gone down easy. The Lobos won 82-78 last year in The Pit and edged San Diego two years ago 57-54 in San Diego.
Coach Alford has been generous in giving his young bench playing time as he looks for combinations and individuals to prove their productivity. He says it's likely that playing time will begin to shrink as the season gets closer to Mountain West Conference play.
The Toreros are members of the West Coast Conference,and are sitting at 1-3 for the season under fourth-year head coach Bill Grier, who spent 16 years on the sidelines at Gonzaga.
USD won their opener 83-66 against Occidental College and then dropped three straight to Division I foes, including a road game at Stanford, and then their last two, which were both at home. San Diego lost 65-60 to Boise State and 62-59 to Cal State Fullerton.
The Toreros have been spreading it out, as their five starters average between 10.5 and 8.3 points per game.
WEDNESDAY IN THE PIT -- LOBOS 78, NORTHWOOD 56
It was a good night for the Lobos to go big, because the Northwood Timberwolves weren't very big.
And the Lobo big men, well, came up big in New Mexico`s 78-56 roll over Northwood Wednesday night in The Pit.
"A.J. (Hardman) was much better tonight than at Cal," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "I really liked their ability to pass the basketball, create good shots and finish. But I told them we just played a team that didn`t have anyone taller than 6-8."
The Lobos "Bigs" were aggressive and they were hot as the combination of A.J. Hardeman, Alex Kirk, Emmanuel Negedu, and Cameron Bairstow combined to shoot 15-of-17 from the floor for a combined 35 points.
Hardeman and Kirk might be running wind sprints the next time the Lobos gather to practice. They each missed a shot. Negedu and Bairstow were perfect, going 2-of-2 and 4-of-4 respectively.
The hot touch inside helped UNM shoot 59.6 percent from the floor. The Lobos were not so hot outside going 4-of-17 from 3-point range for 23.5 percent.
It was a good return for Phillip McDonald. The Lobo junior had missed three games with an elbow injury, but he knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 13 points while leading the Lobos with six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
"He brought toughness to us," said Alford. "He wasn't passive. He helped us."
Senior Dairese Gary threw out a solid all-around floor game with 12 points, six assists and five steals. His defense was typical Gary: in-your-face nasty.
Northwood had a single player in double figures with Bobby Lewis scoring 14 points. The Timberwolves ran into a tough Lobo defense and shot only 37.7 percent from the field and 20 percent from long range.
Northwood had 20 turnovers to 10 assists. The `Wolves lost the board battle, but weren't crushed: 33-29.
"We took a couple of steps in a positive direction," said Alford, who said his substitution pattern Wednesday was defense based. "We have to be patient and I'm not the most patient guy. My concern was how we were going to respond coming off a loss."
The response was pretty good. The Lobos probably put the game out of Northwood's reach with a 15-2 run to close out the first half and form a 40-22 lead at the break.
Northwood did a good job hanging around in the second half and cut UNM's lead to 61-48 with 7:35 to play. Alford called a timeout with 6:23 to play and the score 65-50. The Lobos outscored Northwood by seven points down the stretch.
"The zone slowed the pace a little bit," said Alford. "We did a good job with shot selection and we got the ball inside. We did a lot of good things, but we are going to have to take baby steps.
"We aren't ready yet to be a 30-and-5 team. It's not the guys' fault. They are young and we have to stick with them."
Alford played 11 Lobos Wednesday with players logging minutes from 10 up to 32.
First Half -- Lobos 40, Northwood 22
Stat Leaders: Gary 9 pts, Hardeman 6 pts.
The Lobos went into the halftime break up 40-22 and it probably could have been worse for the visiting Northwood Timberwolves. The Lobos used a couple of early 8-0 runs and ended with a 15-2 run to form the 18-point halftime bulge.
UNM went up 8-0 quickly on a Hardman dunk followed by back-to-back treys by McDonald and Gray. Northwood fought back to within a point at 11-10. UNM then threw out another 8-0 run to go up 19-10. A steal and a layup by Gary made it 17-0 and then a senior-like dunk by freshman Kirk sent The Pit into a frenzy and formed UNM's 19-10 lead.
A Northwood trey made it 19-13 and quieted The Pit. UNM went into the 7:25 media break up 25-16. The Lobos pretty much controlled the rest of the half with efficient offense and stout defense.
A nifty Curtis Dennis pass to Bairstow made it 32-20. Northwood snapped that run by scoring underneath, 32-20. Negedu scored back-to-back buckets and started a fast break that led to a McDonald bucket and UNM was up 38-22. A Gary steal and layup in the closing seconds made it 40-22 to close UNM's 15-2 run at the close of the half.
UNM hit 16-of-28 shots while holding Northwood to 29 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. The shorter Timberwolves hung with UNM on the boards, 17-all.