Jan. 29, 2011
Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: Lobos 86, BYU 77
Tuesday: 6 p.m., Lobo at Air Force
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It wasn't really an ending that was all that unexpected even though the joy that sent New Mexico's student section crashing onto The Pit's floor could be understood.
After all, the Brigham Young team that slapped down No. 4 San Diego State a few nights ago; the Cougar team that might feature the nation's best player; was slapped down 86-77 by a gutsy Lobo team that on this afternoon was the better and more complete team.
Of course, it's never really a surprise when Lobos run and win in their Pit.
"The message has been sent a long time ago as to what we are in this building," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "We are a hard out in this building, I don't care who comes in here."
Sure, the Cougars had Jimmer Fredette and his 32 points and seven assists, but the Lobos had a wave of young talent that exposed a BYU weakness and celebrated a Lobo strength. The Lobos got 30 points off their bench to nine for BYU and that was a huge key.
And then you toss in Dairese Gary with 14 points and 10 assists and Drew Gordon with 15 points and 12 boards and Fredette becomes almost a flashy footnote. The talented Cougar got some inside help from Brandon Davies with 15 points and eight boards, but Fredette didn't have a team or a bench step up around him.
Gary and Gordon did. Freshman Tony Snell came off the bench to score 16 second-half points, including a 4-of-5 effort from beyond the 3-point line. It seemed that every time the No. 9-ranked Cougars had a tiny chance to crack into UNM's lead, Gary would drive and kick off, and Snell would drill a trey.
And The Pit (15,411) would go crazy.
"We've seen this coming all along," said Alford on Snell's clutch effort. "His whole thing is just being assertive and having enough confidence in himself that he can do it.
"We are down to the No. 1 RPI team in the country, a Top Ten Team. We are down 13 and we win by nine. That's a special turnaround. This was a tremendous win for us."
"The message has been sent a long time ago as to what we are in this building. We are a hard out in this building, I don't care who comes in here."
Lobo Coach Steve Alford
The Lobos were down 53-40 following a Fredette trey at the 14:37 mark. Snell came back with a huge 3-pointer to make it 43-43 and The Pit erupted. A Gary layup, a Gary trey, and layups by Adams and Snell pulled the Lobos to 53-52. It was a game again.
"Tony made some big shots for us," said Gary.
BYU went up 67-62 on a trey by Fredette with 6:30 to play and then the Lobos simply took over the game. "If I made a shot, they just kept coming at me," said Fredette.
Said Gary: "Fredette, he's a beast, what can you say. Some of the shots that he made, I'm looking at him thinking, `Wow, did you really just make that in my face?' If he makes a big shot, you have to go down to the other end, stay poised, and just come back and get a good play."
The Lobos got a lot of good plays down the stretch. A Snell 3-point bomb pushed UNM up 80-70 with 2:01 to play and the Cougars were in a deep hole and in deep trouble. The Lobos actually coasted to the nine-point win.
"They went right at us," BYU coach David Rose said of the UNM attack. "They hit some shots and got some confidence. They were scoring on almost every possession. We were on our heels defensively."
"Obviously, their game plan was to go out and make it as tough as they could for me," said Fredette of UNM's defense. "They did a good job, but, in the end, they just made a lot more plays than we did. The Pit is always an emotional place to play."
You have to give a lot of credit to UNM's outside success to Gordon, who scored 11 first-half points to become a focal point of the BYU zone in the second half. The Cougars took their choice of poisons and decided to give UNM open shots on the edge. The Lobos made them, going 7-of-15 from behind the line in the second half.
A huge coaching adjustment was Alford going to a four-guard lineup that left Gordon inside and blanketed the edge with some talented guns. Still, UNM had to make the shots.
Said BYU coach Rose: "Defensively we had a hard time. We had a hard time getting stops the last ten minutes of the game. When they spread the floor and went small, put all those shooter around. They started hitting them."
UNM shot 56.7 percent from the field in the second half and finished the game at 50.8 percent. BYU shot 50.8 percent. BYU starters Emery Jackson, Noah Hartsock and Kyle Collinsworth combined to shoot 6-of-19, despite being set up numerous times for open shots off Fredette drives.
Said Fredette: "I think we got some good looks. We just didn't knock down shots when we needed to. I think we played hard. We just didn't make enough shots and enough plays to win the game."
Said Alford: "We tried to wear him down a little bit and make sure he was engaged defensively as much as he was offensively. He just made some shots that great players make."
The Cougars showcased an individual on this afternoon while UNM showcased a team and several individuals. UNM's Gary was the only player on the court who played 40 minutes.
"In the end, it's that one guy again - Dairese Gary," said Alford. "This (will his team to victory) is what Dairese has done his entire career. We are watching a very special player."
The win moved UNM to 3-4 in the Mountain West and slapped the first MWC loss on BYU's slate at 6-1. BYU is 20-2 overall and UNM is 15-7. The Lobos play at Air Force on Tuesday.
"We just saw a Top Ten team not win on the road," said Alford. "It's hard to get road wins in this league."