Dec. 30, 2008
Tuesday: Lobos 68, NMSU 66
Up Next: Lobos at UNLV, Saturday
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There was no broom in the Lobos day bag Tuesday for their trip to Las Cruces, but the University of New Mexico still got to do some sweeping in the Pan American Center. But it wasn't exactly an easy clean-up job for the visitors from Albuquerque.
The Lobos had to overcome a 64-61 deficit with 1:51 to play and then watched the Aggies throw up two short shots in the final seconds that could have pushed the two in-state rivals into overtime. The Aggies did get a third shot to fall, but it came about one-half second after the buzzer and the University of New Mexico got a 68-66 win and their first sweep of this series since the Lobos did it in 2004.
"Anytime you can win both games in a rival, you have to be pleased," said Lobos coach Steve Alford, who saw his team go to 9-5 heading into a Mountain West Conference opener Saturday at UNLV.
"I'm very pleased with this team. Even a (UNM) team that won 24 games last year couldn't win down here. I thought Daniel (Faris) was really good. I thought he guarded and he was very, very active on the boards. I thought he was really solid."
Faris ended the game with his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line and his 5-foot half-jumper with 39 seconds to play took UNM from a 66-65 deficit into a 67-66 lead. The shot was set up by UNM's Tony Danridge collapsing the NMSU defense with a baseline drive. When the Aggie defense moved in on the UNM senior, he kicked off the ball to Faris whose shot died on the back of the rim and rolled into the hole.
"You have to give Daniel credit for hitting the back of the rim and deadening the ball to allow it to go in," said Alford, smiling. Alford told Faris that Alford grew up priding himself on being a shooter and "I don't know how to do that." Said Faris: "I'll never live that one down."
Actually, the shot was perfect for both Alford and the Lobos as it produced the winning points. The Aggies called a timeout with 33.7 seconds to play and got a wide-open 18-footer from Hernst Laroche that missed. Danridge ran down the garbage which led to Dairese Gary standing at the foul line with 14.1 seconds to play. The sophomore point guard made one and the Aggies had a shot, down 68-66.
NMSU lost the ball on a drive, but had an in-bounds play with three seconds to play. The Aggies lobbed the ball inside and got a decent shot from Hamidu Rahman that didn't fall and an off-balance jumper by Jahmar Young. "They never did get a clean look," said Alford.
Faris was joined in double figures by Roman Martinez with 16 points and Danridge with 12 points. "Ro (Martinez) is always a solid performer for us," said Alford. "Ro is really consistent, probably our most consistent performer."
UNM won the boards 37-to-32. The Lobos had 20 turnovers and NMSU had 19 miscues. The Aggies had 12 steals to four for UNM. UNM shot 38.9 percent from the field and NMSU shot 39.6 percent. UNM was 8-of-21 from behind the 3-point line and NMSU was 4-of-12.
The Lobos definitely got two things they needed from their visit to Cruces. The Lobos got the sweep. They also got a boost of road confidence, something much needed as UNM opens league play Saturday at UNLV -- the team predicted to win the MWC regular-season crown.
"It does give us momentum," said Alford. "We won a road game. Now, we know we are going to a very difficult place (UNLV). For our young guys to have their first league game in (UNLV's) building, that's not going to be easy."
Alford also said he was pleased by the defensive play of Danridge, who was on Young most of the night. Danridge played 35 minutes and Young played 35 minutes, scoring seven points on a 2-of-10 effort from the floor. "To hold him to seven points is a great effort, because Jahmar is a very talented player," said Alford.
Said Faris: "I think we are starting to understand what we need to do to win games. I was happy to get a double-double. It took long enough. But I was more happy with the win. I've never won down here and it's a blessing to go out with two wins against the Aggies."
The Lobos grabbed a 30-28 halftime lead and were up 49-41 behind a trio of treys. The first and second came from Martinez and then an offensive foul on Aggie Hamidu Rahman at the 13:10 mark led to a 3-pointer by UNM's Nate Garth.
The Pan American Center crowd of 10,285 got a wakeup call at the 7:56 mark when UNM's Faris drove the lane for a layup and his shot was pinned to the glass by NMSU's Wendell McKines. "That was a momentum changer," said NMSU coach Marvin Menzies. The Aggies converted that into a Young field goal to cut UNM's lead to two points at 52-50. NMSU was shooting 66.7 percent from the field at that point and trailing UNM in the rebounding column 30-27.
Young hit a 15-footer to hand NMSU their 64-61 lead at 1:51. Danridge made two free throws at 1:41 to make it 64-63. The Aggies jumped up 66-63 with 1:20 to play when McKines slipped behind the UNM defense, got the pass and dunked it.
UNM's Gary was fouled bringing the ball across the midcourt stripe and he knocked down both free throws to make it 66-65 with 1:15 to play. The Lobos got a huge break with 56 seconds to play when Laroche rebounded his miss and, looking at a fresh 35-second clock, dribbled the ball off his foot. UNM called a timeout with 52.6 seconds to play and down 66-65 with 32 seconds on the shot clock.
That timeout led to Danridge's drive and his pass to Faris that led to UNM's 67-66 lead.