Jan. 12, 2013
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Mountain West - In The Pit
Saturday: New Mexico Lobos 72, Fresno State Bulldogs 45
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (MT) - New Mexico at Boise State
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Well, in a way it was a grinder. The Fresno State Bulldogs fell into a Pit grinder and got chewed up 72-45 by the hot-shooting New Mexico Lobos.
Eventually, this was going to happen. The Lobos were going to come out gunning like a pack of wild-west gunslingers and some hapless opponent was going to get shredded in The Pit.'
But was it somewhat surprising that this shredding - and deadeye shooting - took place against a Fresno State team considered to be one of the top defensive-minded teams in the Mountain West?
And with UNM's leading scorer, Kendall Williams, on the bench, sitting out as punishment for being late to a team meeting.
"I did the benching in minutes and this was a benching for a game," said Alford, who had benched Williams twice before this season. "He has to learn. He has to learn this is a team game and a team meeting is a team meeting."
The Lobos got 15 first-half points from Cameron Bairstow, shot 49 percent on the day, and pounded Fresno State by 27 points Saturday afternoon in The Pit. The taming of the Bulldogs advanced UNM's record to 15-2 on the season and 2-0 in the Mountain West.
"We thought we could hurt them inside," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "We got bigs. Cam and Alex are just getting better and better and better. They are just playing at a really high level. Those guys are very talented. Those two bigs, they're a load."
The Lobos are expected to get a tougher test on Wednesday when they travel to Boise, Idaho, to play the Boise State team that knocked Wyoming --in Laramie -- off the unbeaten lists of NCAA teams.
The Lobos did their job in defending their home against UNLV and Fresno State. UNM now has to try and scratch out a road breakthrough against a Broncos' team that won in Laramie minus four players, who did not make that trip after violating team rules. One of those benched Broncos, Derrick Marks, had been averaging 16.3 points for Boise. Three, including Marks, are back for Wednesday's game.
"They won at Wyoming with a lot of guys out," said Alford. "They test your defense. They can really score in a lot of ways and they extend your defense with the 3-ball."
So, the team that punched the first loss in Wyoming's dance card might be full strength for the Lobos. That game will be live on 770-AM.
The Lobos weren't at full strength Saturday, but they still managed to flex their muscles against Fresno State. Williams did not play and Chad Adams did not start, nursing a sore knee. "His knee is still sore," Alford said of Adams.
This game was won in the first half off 15 first-half points by Bairstow and a 16-2 Lobo run to close that half. Fresno State was down 23-20 with 5:44 to play, but the Lobos dominated the stretch run to grab a 17-point halftime lead.
That bulge was simply too much for a defensive-minded Fresno State team to overcome - especially since the Lobos were shredding that defense.
"Cam is playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Alford. "And Alex just continues to prove he's one of the best centers out West. I believed that in the beginning of the season and he's done nothing but solidify those thoughts. He's a go-to guy."
Near the halfway mark of the second half - at the 11:55 media break -- UNM was up 51-32 and shooting 56.4 percent from the floor. Many of the statistical lines that favored Fresno State coming into this MW game, had not materialized in The Pit against the Lobos.
Bairstow went 6-of-6 from the floor in the first half, but cooled to shoot 0-5 in the second half and finished with 16 points. UNM's 7-foot Alex Kirk was more consistent in both halves and went 8-of-13 from the floor to finish with a game-high 19 points and 14 boards. That Twin Tower combo combined for 35 points and 19 boards.
"(Tony) just asserted himself at a much higher level and we need that," said Alford.
Said Snell: "Since Kendall sat out, I had to step up my game and help get the win."
Fresno State had one Bulldog in double figures, Marvelle Harris with 11 points and three 3-pointers.
The Broncos were held to 33.3 percent shooting, 5-of-20 from 3-point range, and UNM ruled the boards 43-25. Fresno State, a team known for good ball handing, was forced into 19 turnovers by the Lobos, who had 16 miscues.
Obviously, the power in the paint was key and UNM outscored Fresno 42-to-14 inside. The Lobos also had 23 second-chance points to five for the visitors from Fresno.
"We did good things offensively and I thought our defense had a lot to do with that," said Alford. "Our guys have done a really good job of being tough and doing the things we want to do defensively."
UNM's Twin Tower attack might have been influenced by Williams and Adams not starting, but the Bulldogs are not an up-tempo team which allowed UNM to go big without being hurt in transition. Bairstow said he likes to see the Tower lineup.
"I prefer to play with (Kirk) because it's an easier game," said Bairstow. "I think Alex and I work well together even though we don't get a lot of practice time (together). We both look for each other."
First Half: New Mexico 39, Fresno State 22
There was one word to describe Cameron Bairstow's shooting in the first half: "Perfect." "It was pretty good," Bairstow said of his play in first 20 minutes.
The 6-foot-9 Australian went 6-of-6 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the line to pace UNM with 15 points. It was pretty much a Twin Tower half for UNM as 7-foot Alex Kirk added nine points and six boards. "
The Lobos played the first half without starter Kendall Williams and about 14 minutes without Chad Adams, so the Lobos needed somebody to step up and fill those scoring gaps. Bairstow took that step for the Lobos. Bairstow scored 11 of his 15 points in the first 11:38 to pace UNM to a 17-11 lead.
The Lobos and the Bulldogs had a number of short runs in the first half, but with a 23-20 lead, UNM closed with a 16-2 run to pull into a comfortable halftime lead.
The Lobos went up 2-0 on a tip by Kirk and 4-0 on a jumper by Cleveland Thomas, who got the start with Williams and Adams on the bench. The Bulldogs grabbed a 5-4 lead on a trey by Marvelle Harris and a layup off a UNM turnover, but never again led. UNM then went up 7-5 on an old-fashion 3-point play by Bairstow. At the 15:55 break, UNM was up 7-5.
Bairstow continued to play well and UNM went up 13-8 aided by two more field goals by the Australian. Fresno came back to 9-8 but UNM went up 17-8 on an 8-0 run paced by Bairstow, who now had 11 points. At the 11:38 break, Fresno had another trey to make the count 17-11.
Fresno came out of the huddle with another 3-pointer to cut its gap to 17-14. Fenton and Greenwood then hit jumpers and UNM as up 21-14. Another Fenton bucket made it 23-14 in UNM's favor at the 7:36 media stop.
Fresno whittled UNM's lead down to 23-20, but Adams made his first appearance of the half and scored underneath on a Greenwood feed to make it 25-20. UNM then muscled and ran to its 39-22 halftime bulge.