Dec. 26, 2003
An improving New Mexico team hosts Northwestern (La.) State in the first round of the Comcast Lobo Invitational Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is approximately 5:15 p.m. Mountain Time from The Pit/Bob King Court. Arkansas State and Penn State start things off beginning at 3:05 p.m. The third-place and championship game will be played Monday at 6 and 8:15 p.m. This is the 39th Lobo Invitational, making it the nation's fifth-oldest in-season men's tournament.
UNM is 5-3 and has won three straight after an impressive 65-49 victory over New Mexico State last Monday. The Lobos are enjoying their first three-game winning streak since an eight-game run during the 2001-02 season.
The new-look Lobos are now almost full strength with the addition of Troy DeVries and Danny Granger. The midseason transfers became eligible last Sunday against Coppin State. In two games, Granger has 40 points and 25 rebounds, including a solid 22 points and 16 caroms in the win over the Aggies. That's the most rebounds by a Lobo since the late Patrick Dennehy pulled down 17 against Alcorn State on Dec. 1, 2001. DeVries has tallied 26 points and 15 assists in the two wins, including 12 assists against Coppin State, the best individual total in 12 years.
New Mexico has played the past two games without sophomore guard Mark Walters, who has been sidelined for personal reasons. Walters could be available this weekend.
Northwestern State is 2-6 following a narrow 78-76 setback last Saturday to Troy State, a team that played in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. The Demons, who led by 14 in the first half, lost when Troy State stuffed home an air ball with 1.2 seconds left. Sophomore forward Clifton Lee tossed in 17 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to lead Northwestern. The Demons are very, very young as a freshman and four sophomores started against Troy State.
The only other meeting between UNM and Northwestern was last year when the Lobos eked out a 60-56 victory in The Pit. It was in the early moments of that game when former Lobo Senque Carey suffered temporary paralysis from the neck down, a freakish injury that ended his collegiate playing career. Carey regained complete feeling in his extremeties a few weeks later and is now a student assistant for the Lobos.
Arkansas State is 8-1, its only loss coming against Toledo, 64-63. The Indians have won five straight, including a season-opening victory at Ole Miss and a home win against Southern Miss. Penn State comes into the tournament at 4-4.
OPPONENT THUMBNAILS - Northwestern State (Natchitoches, La. / Southland Conf.): The Demons are 2-6 with wins over LSU-Shreveport and Loyola-New Orleans...five of their losses came on the road at Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Northwestern, Centenary and Tulane...F Jermaine Wallace leads the team with a 13.6 scoring average...F Clifton Lee is averaging 12.4 ppg and a team-high 7.8 rpg.
Arkansas State (Jonesboro, Ark. / Sun Belt): The hottest team in the field is Sun Belt Conference member Arkansas State...the Indians come in at 8-1, and they have won five in a row...their only loss was 64-63 to Toledo on Dec. 3, and they have posted road wins at Ole Miss (74-69) and TCU (64-58)...Toledo is 7-1...a win over Penn State would provide ASU its best start in school history...head coach Dickey Nutt is 125-114 in his ninth year, all at ASU...the Indians' three-guard lineup is punctuated by leading scorers Dewarick Spencer (19.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg) and J.J. Montgomery (18.7 ppg and 6.2 rpg)...F Kim Adams is averaging a double-double with 11.9 ppg and 10.0 rpg
Penn State (University Park, Pa. / Big Ten): The Nittany Lions are 4-4, 1-2 away from home...they won at Buffalo and fell at Pittsburgh and Temple...Penn State has just two seniors on its roster with one starter in forward Ndu Egekeze...the Nittany Lions have an all-freshman backcourt in Ben Luber and Marlon Smith...a pair of forwards - Jan Jagla (16.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg) and DeForrest Riley-Smith (12.9 ppg and 5.6) - are the two statistical leaders...PSU is averaging just 61.4 ppg, while allowing 64.8...first-year head coach Ed DeChellis is a 1982 Penn State grad...he has a 109-97 collegiate record, including a 105-93 mark in seven seasons at East Tennessee State.
TALK ABOUT A DISADVANTAGE - The addition of Troy DeVries and Danny Granger against Coppin State gives New Mexico 10 players on scholarship, the most for a Ritchie McKay-coached Lobo team and the highest number since 11 were available during the 2001-02 season. However, with Mark Walters sidelined, UNM is operating with just nine. Freshman Sean Phelar is also on scholarship, but he is expected to redshirt this season. The NCAA allows a maximum of 13.
UNM took the floor against Coppin State on Dec. 21 with nine scholarship players, the first time it had more than eight available since Nov. 25, 2002 - a span of 34 games.
New Mexico started the 2002-03 campaign with nine players on scholarship. However, in the second game of the season, senior guard Senque Carey suffered a career-ending injury, leaving UNM with just eight players on aid. After Michael McCowan quit in late-February, the Lobos finished the season with just seven on scholarship.
Also, for the first time since McKay took over at UNM, the team is now starting a power forward who is taller than 6'5". The 6'8" Granger and 6'9" David Chiotti the Lobos' starters in the post. Jamaal Williams (6'4") was the starter at that position last year, while Alfred Neale (6'5") started there five times this season.
NEW MEXICO STATE RECAP/NOTES - Junior Danny Granger scored 22 points and had 16 rebounds to lead New Mexico to a 65-49 win over New Mexico State. The former Bradley standout, who transferred to New Mexico last January, had his second straight impressive outing for the Lobos.
New Mexico State missed 15 of its first 20 shots, had its leading scorer, Duane John, in foul trouble early and got no closer than the final score in the second half. John was held to 10 points, far short of his 21.6 average and his 33-point game against the Lobos in the Aggies' win in Las Cruces.
With Granger scoring inside and guard Troy DeVries finding open spots on the perimeter, New Mexico went on a 10-0 run for a 31-9 lead with 5:23 left in the first half. DeVries added 15 points on the evening, including a trio of 3-pointers.
New Mexico, which held Coppin State to 17 first-half points, nearly duplicated the defensive effort against NMSU before John hit a 12-footer with 20 seconds left that made it 39-19 New Mexico.
David Chiotti hit back-to-back baskets inside to start the second half and any hopes the Aggies had of mounting a comeback ended quickly as they missed their first five shots, three of them airballs. Chiotti also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds as New Mexico had a 44-23 edge in rebounding.
* With the win, New Mexico ended its three-game slide against the Aggies
* New Mexico is 3-2 when facing New Mexico State on Dec. 22...the game marked the 99th anniversary of the inaugural battle dating back to Dec. 22, 1904, which New Mexico won 21-9
* The Lobos avenged their 19-point loss at New Mexico State on Dec. 3...the last time there was a double-digit win by both teams in the same season was 1998-99...New Mexico had an 11-point win (77-66) on Jan. 2, 1999, and New Mexico State won 76-55 in Las Cruces on Jan. 19, 1999.
* In their last two games, the Lobos have come out of the gate fast...UNM led Coppin State 26-5 and New Mexico State 31-9 in the first half...the Lobos enjoyed 20-point leads at halftime against Coppin State (37-17) and NMSU (39-19)
* The last time New Mexico held three opponents to less than 20 first-half points for an entire season was 1996-97 when the Lobos limited Eastern Washington to 15, Jackson State to 17 and BYU to 18
* The addition of Danny Granger has certainly improved the Lobos' rebounding...in 6 games without Granger, UNM had a slight 1.16 margin over its opponents...against Coppin State and New Mexico State, the Lobos had an overwhelming 84-46 advantage, or an average of +19...UNM's +21 (44-23) board domination against NMSU is the largest since a 46-22 edge against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 24, 1999
* Granger had 22 points and 16 rebounds while David Chiotti had 12 points and 11 rebounds vs. NMSU...the last time two Lobos had a double-double in the same game was Feb. 22, 2003 at UNLV when Ruben Douglas had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Jamaal Williams scored 25 points and grabbed15 rebounds
* The Lobos were 6-22 from behind the 3-point line, extending their streak to 404 consecutive games hitting a three pointer...it is the 11th longest streak in Division I..the last time the Lobos failed to hit a three pointer was Jan. 3, 1991 against Colorado State.
* UNM held the Aggies to 15% (2-13) shooting from 3-point, the poorest accuracy since the season opener when San Francisco State was 0-8...opponents are making just 31.7% of their 3s
SEASON NOTES - New Mexico has yielded an average of 56.0 ppg during its 3-game winning streak...opponents are averaging just 60.0 ppg on the season
* Opponents are shooting 39.3% from the floor, and the Lobos have already held five opponents to less than 40% accuracy this season...they did that only five times all of last season when foes converted 47.7%, the highest percentage since the 1984-85 season (48.1%)...UNM has limited its last three foes to 38% shooting or worse, a feat last achieved between Nov. 20-27, 1999 against St. John's, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State and Alcorn State
* David Chiotti has three double-doubles and the team has five with one apiece by Alfred Neale and Danny Granger...Ruben Douglas had a team-high four last year, while UNM only had seven as a team (Mark Walters 2, Jamaal Williams 1)
* Led by Alfred Neale's 13 blocks, UNM has 31 as a team, or 3.8 a game...the Lobos rejected 75 last year, or 2.67 a game...Chad Bell led New Mexico a year ago with 24 blocks
* UNM made their last 14 FTs in the 77-63 win over Sacramento State
* The Lobos set a school record for 3-point accuracy against San Francisco State, making 72.2% (13-18) of their attempts...the previous best was 70% (7-10) against Wyoming on Feb. 6, 1992...UNM made 9 of 10 treys in the second half against the Gators
* The 53-point margin of victory (95-42) against San Francisco State ties for the seventh largest in school history and ties for the fifth-widest in The Pit...it's the most points in a season opener since a 98-76 triumph over Southern Cal in 1997...it's also the fewest points allowed by UNM since a 74-32 victory over BYU on Feb. 3, 1997
* UNM has made a 3-pointer in 404 straight games, the 11th-longest streak in NCAA Div. I history...the last time the Lobos failed to connect was Jan. 3, 1991 at Colorado State when they missed on eight attempts...UNLV, which has never failed to make a 3 since the shot became rule in 1986-87, is the all-time leader at more than 540 in a row