Jan. 27, 2011
Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Wednesday: Lobos 71, TCU 46
Saturday: 2 p.m., Brigham Young at Lobos
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In looking ahead to the runaway train heading into The Pit on Saturday, all Lobo coach Steve Alford had to do was look over the heads of the assorted media that had gathered to talk about UNM's 71-46 crunching of TCU Wednesday night in The Pit.
On the TV in the background, BYU's Jimmer Fredette and the Cougars were putting the finishing touches on a 71-58 crunching of soon-not-to-be No. 4 San Diego State.
It was an impressive Cougar victory as Fredette shredded one of the top defenses in the nation for 43 points and helped BYU end the longest win streak in the nation. It also was an impressive win by the Lobos but with a footnote: the Horned Frogs are not BYU.
And that's just fine with the Lobos. "We have a big top-ten team coming in," said Drew Gordon, who powered for 12 points and 11 rebounds in the squashing of Frogs. "It's a good chance to test where we are again. We'll see how it goes on Saturday.
On Wednesday, it went very well. Gordon and A.J. Hardeman (eight points, five boards) took care of the middle and Phillip McDonald was lighting it up from the edge. The Lobo junior hit 6-of-9 treys to finish with 20 points. He also was UNM's No. 2 board man on the night with six.
"Every shot I took, I felt like it was going in," said McDonald, whose nine shots all came from behind the line. "They left me open pretty much this game and I hit some open shots. It felt really good. It was a confidence booster and I really needed that. Hopefully, it rolls over to BYU."
Said Alford: "It was a really good bounce-back game for us. I loved our focus. I thought our guys from the beginning played hard and with a purpose."
The Frogs from Fort Worth (minus their leading scorer, Ronnie Moss, who didn't make the trip) hung around early and had the Lobos tied 19-all with 5:34 to play in the first half. The Lobos pulled to a 34-25 halftime lead and simply ran away from TCU in the second half, outscoring the Frogs 37-21.
"This game really helps us," said McDonald. "It's a weight lifted off our shoulders."
The weight was the 1-4 Mountain West mark the Lobos carried onto the Bob King Floor on Wednesday. A loss would have left the two-time defending MWC champs in the league's cellar. Instead, the Lobos climb to 14-7 overall and 2-4 in MWC play. TCU falls to 10-12 and 1-6.
"I think we are talented enough offensively, but we need to take care of the ball," said Alford. "I think that's when we are at our best."
The BYU Cougars only had seven turnovers against a team Alford calls the best defensive team in the Mountain West. When BYU doesn't turn over the ball, that means Fredette gets to take more shots. He took 24 vs. SDSU. He made 14 of them and went 10-of-11 from the line.
The Lobos didn't attack much against the TCU zone and launched 28 shots from behind the line. BYU took 15 3-pointers vs. SDSU. UNM went 7-of-7 from the free throw line. The Lobos shot 48.2 percent from the floor to 33.9 percent for TCU.
"They played a lot of zone and that allowed Phillip to get his feet set," said Alford. "Phillip is giving us good effort. He is guarding and he is rebounding. It was good to see Phillip make shots. I thought we moved the ball pretty good against it (zone)."
Alford said he expects to see plenty of zone from BYU on Saturday. BYU held the Aztecs to 35.5 percent shooting and no Aztec starter shot above 50 percent. D.J. Gay, who burned the Lobos in The Pit for 30 points, went 0-of-7 from the floor.
"Their only loss is at UCLA," Alford said of BYU.
The Cougars arguably have the toughest starting lineup in the MWC when it comes to scoring points, but BYU is not a deep team. The Lobos' bench stepped up against TCU as ten players made the scoring chart and ten players pulled down at least one board.
Second Half: Lobos 37, TCU 21
UNM quickly pushed its nine-point halftime lead to 14 points off an inside bucket by Gordon and a trey by McDonald. TCU came back to make it 39-31. UNM answered back to go up 44-31 and TCU called time at 16:32.
A Gary dunk put UNM up 48-33. Snell popped in a baseline jumper to make it 51-33 and that 18-point lead forced TCU into another timeout. At the 11:09 media break, a Hardeman power move had UNM up by 20 - 53-33. UNM was 3-of-4 from the 3-point line and 8-of-12 overall for a 66.7 percentage.
The lead was simply too much for a Moss-less TCU team to cut into and the Lobos rolled to the 25-point win.
First Half: Lobos 34, TCU 25
Lobo Stat Leaders: McDonald 12 pts., 4 rebs.; Gary 5 assts.
There were a lot of missed shots early with UNM going 2-of-6 and TCU 1-of-6. At the 15:40 media stop, UNM was up 5-2 off a McDonald trey and a Williams score.
UNM's Cameron Bairstow came in after that break and hit a short post shot to push UNM up 7-2. A Williams' trey from the right wing made it 10-2. When a Bairstow drive made it 12-4, TCU called a timeout at the 12:57 mark.
At the 10:50 break, TCU pulled to 14-10 on a quick 6-2 run. UNM got its two points from another Bairstow move inside. A Fenton trey pushed UNM up 17-10. UNM got a 15-foot jumper from Gordon to pull into the 7:43 break up 19-13.
TCU took advantage of some poor UNM shots to bang in a couple of long treys. Those buckets locked the score at 19-all and it was Alford's turn to call time.
The Lobos' offense came out with a little more spark and three consecutive treys by McDonald gave UNM a 28-21 lead at the 2:43 break. UNM got layups from Williams and Gary and two free throws from Gary to help form UNM's 34-25 halftime lead.
The Lobos shot 48.1 percent in the first 20 minutes to 38.5 percent for TCU. UNM had 11 assists to six for the Horned Frogs.