Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Wednesday: Lobos 68, Colorado State 61
Saturday: 4 p.m., No. 6 San Diego State at Lobos - The Pit
On The Air: CBS-College (TV); 770-AM KKOB / Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
With one of the more massive and talented front lines in the nation coming to The Pit on Saturday, the Colorado State game on Wednesday night was exactly the type of game Lobo Drew Gordon needed.
The 6-foot-9 post scored 15 points and muscled for 16 boards in New Mexico's 68-61 Mountain West Conference win over The Rams in The Pit. Now, it's bring on the San Diego State Aztecs and their monstrous inside attack of Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White.
"I'm not going to back down from anybody," said Gordon. "I'm not going to be scared of anybody or let anybody intimidate me."
Being scared of the Aztecs isn't really the issue. Can you play with them? -- is more the question.
So far, 18 teams have tried to knock down the Aztecs and 18 teams have failed. The UNLV team that mopped up the court with TCU a few days back tried Wednesday night and lost 55-49 in San Diego to the No. 6 ranked and undefeated Aztecs.
"This is a big game for us," said Phillip McDonald of the Aztecs' visit. "We need this game and I believe we can do it."
The Rams probably believed for a few minutes that they might catch the Lobos looking ahead to nastier MWC opponents. CSU scratched out of a 32-22 halftime deficit and pulled to 60-59 with 57 seconds to play. That's when McDonald rolled off a pick as Dairese Gary drove to the bucket. McDonald then accepted a Gary pass and ended up launching a 3-pointer near the top of the key. It dropped with 49 seconds to play and UNM was up 63-59. The Rams got no closer.
It was a huge bucket. "It was a one-point game and he hit a big shot," said Lobo coach Steve Alford, who saw his Lobos raise their record to 13-4 overall and 1-1 in MWC play.
McDonald came off the bench to hit 27 points in 28 minutes of play. He lost his start after a bad game in UNM's one-point loss at Wyoming. "It was a big wake-up call for me," said McDonald. "I have to be more active on the court and I think that really helped me on the court tonight."
Said Alford: "His cutting tonight had much more urgency. He got to cutting hard and he was hard to guard tonight. His teammates found him and he took good shots."
The Lobos shot 41.5 percent, but only 30.8 percent in the second half. CSU shot 24 percent in the first half and 48.4 percent in the second half. The Rams' increase in scoreboard productivity was sparked by pretty much the same thing that sparked McDonald. The Rams started moving with a sense of urgency and purpose.
If UNM hadn't gone 20-of-25 from the line and hammered the Rams 46-29 on the boards, this game might have had an unhappy ending for Lobos.
Freshman Kendall Williams joined Gordon and McDonald in double figures with 10 points. He also had six assists. The Lobos had a quiet game from senior Dairese Gary, who did not score and took only five shots. UNM played without Jamal Fenton, nursing a slight injury.
"Dairese is not about scoring. Dairese is about team and he's about winning," said Alford. "He does a good job understanding winning. He knows how to win. This wasn't one of his better games, but he did a really good job of leading.
"This was a very difficult game for us. There was a lot of pressure on our young guys."
The pressure Wednesday was to beat a good CSU game and shake off the bad memories from the loss in Laramie. The Lobos are looking at another difficult game on Saturday from a SDSU team that has few equals in the paint and - so far - no equals on the scoreboard.
Aztecs Leonard and Thomas combined for 33 boards vs. a very athletic UNLV team. That was the first time in SDSU history that the Aztecs had two 15-plus rebounders in one game. That dynamic duo of muscle and quickness outrebounded the entire UNLV team, 33-31.
"They are beating up on everybody," said Alford.
Second Half: Colorado State 39, Lobos 36
The Lobos came out of the half up by ten, continued to outplay the Rams in several key statistical categories, but the Rams continued to hang around. They also improved on their 24 percent shooting from the first half.
CSU cut UNM's lead to 38-32 with 14:30 to play. The Lobos went up 42-34 at 10:57 off two free throws by A.J. Hardeman. The Rams got it back to a five-point hole when a trey by Dorian Grey made it 42-37. Gray forced another trey. UNM's Chad Adams hit a jumper to slide UNM up 45-37 at 8:59.
McDonald hit a tough, hanging layup in traffic: 47-39. He dunked it on UNM's next possession to make it 49-41. CSU came back with back-to-back buckets to cut UNM's lead to 49-45 - four points with 7:21 to play.
Lobo freshman Alex Kirk powered in a layup at 7:11 and was fouled on the shot. The 6-11 post made the free throw to push UNM up 52-45. CSU was shooting 47.6 percent in the second half at that mark. UNM was at 38.9 percent. The Rams were making a comeback on the boards, too, down 37-25 at that point.
The Rams continued to hang around. UNM went up 58-52 before Green launched in another trey to make it 58-55 in favor of UNM at the 3:23 break. CSU was shooting 48.1 percent at that point and UNM had dropped to 31.8 percent in the second half.
UNM came out of its huddle and got Kirk loose for a trey. He missed, short. CSU missed an opportunity to tie when Green lost control of his dribble on a baseline drive. The Lobos missed several shots on their end coming off offensive boards. CSU came down and Ogide went to the line with 1:36 to play and the score still at 58-55. The lean Ram made both: 58-57.
UNM worked the ball into Gordon, who was fouled on a drop step with 1:12 to play. Gordon made both free ones: 60-57. The Pit got to its feet and roared as CSU brought down the ball. It didn't help. Green drove and floated a shot over Kirk and off the glass: 60-59.
UNM came out of a time and Gary drove only to kick the ball off to McDonald, who got open off a pick and stood alone at the top of the key. His trey dropped and UNM was up 63-59. CSU called time with 45.4 to play. It was time for a Lobo to come up with a big play on defense - two Lobos stepped up.
Gordon played solid post defense, CSU missed inside, and McDonald pulled down the board with 29.1 to play. The junior was fouled. McDonald made both shots from the line: 65-59. CSU scored with 22.3 to play and called timeout down 65-61 - four points.
CSU fouled Adams at the 21.4 mark on the clock. Adams made both: 67-61. That pretty much sealed the win. Gordon got a single free throw with eight clicks to go to form the 68-61 final.
First Half: Lobos 32, Colorado State 22
Lobo Stat Leaders: McDonald 14 pts., Gordon 8 pts., 9 rebs.
The Lobos got off to a sloppy start with five turnovers, but still controlled the scoreboard thanks to better play on the defensive end that slowed up CSU's precision attack. The most Pit-rocking play in the first half was started by a Kirk block, a quick Lobo break, and a nifty bounce pass from Gary to McDonald for a dunk.
A quick post move and soft shot off the glass by Gordon handed UNM a 17-12 lead going into the 7:42 break. At that mark, UNM was shooting 53.3 percent from the floor, but only had 15 shots. CSU had 17 shots, but were tossing up bricks at a 23.5 percent rate.
The Lobos were handling the ball better and had only added three turnovers to that five turnover start in the first four minutes of the half. A huge stat at the mark was the board work. UNM had a massive 17-5 bulge.
A Lobo technical at 6:06 allowed CSU to cut UNM's lead to 19-17. A McDonald trey out of a patient Lobo offense pushed UNM up 24-17 going into the 3:26 media stop. UNM now led on the boards 22-5. CSU's deliberate offense had four turnovers to 10 for the Lobos.
The Lobos continued to control the game defensively and on the glass. The Rams' fifth turnover, unforced, led to a Williams' trey and a 28-17 UNM lead. A Gordon layup off a steal pushed UNM up 32-21 and UNM held on for its 32-22 halftime lead.