STEVENS: Lobos Hold Off NMSU Aggies 75-58 For Season Sweep
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/05/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 5, 2009

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Saturday: Lobos 75, NMSU 58

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In a game never really in question, the New Mexico State Aggies did manage to make it interesting. NMSU cut New Mexico's 41-18 halftime lead to 67-58 forcing Lobo coach Steve Alford into a timeout with 2:56 to play.

The Aggies never scored again as the Lobos pulled away to the 75-58 win to raise UNM's record to 8-0 on the season and hand New Mexico a two-game sweep of the Aggies this season. The Lobos also won 97-87 in Las Cruces.

"It was a very good win for us," said Alford. "But to force a team into 31 turnovers, the disappointing thing is they are even in the game with five minutes to go. For whatever reason, we get casual (with NMSU) when we get a big lead. We did that again tonight."

New Mexico was led by senior Roman Martinez with 21 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore A.J. Hardman powered for 12 points and eight boards. Junior Darington Hobson had 14 points and sophomore Nate Garth added 11 points. The Aggies were paced by Gordo Castillo with 17 points-- 16 in the second half -- and Jahmar Young with 14 points and seven rebounds.

UNM shot 42.6 percent from the field to 40.9 percent for NMSU, which shot 50 percent in the second half. The Aggies outrebouned UNM 36-to-32, but were destroyed by 31 turnovers and 15 UNM steals. UNM scored 36 points off turnovers to 16 points for NMSU off UNM's 16 miscues.

"You have to learn to punish people who turn the ball over and I didn't think we did that consistently," said Alford. "I think the things I'm saying (at halftime) are going over their (Lobo players') heads. There are still lessons we need to keep teaching these guys."

The Lobos and the Aggies kind of threw out the same script in The Pit as they did in the Aggies' Pan American Center. The Lobos ran to a huge first-half lead and watched the Aggies storm back. But the ending was the same. The Lobos found a way to win down the stretch.

"The frustrating part is you talk about that at halftime," Alford said about allowing the Aggies to scrap back into the game. "I thought we played really well in the first half. I thought we played poorly in the second half.

"You saw us guard in the first half the way we are capable of guarding. We can't do that for 40 minutes yet. I thought they (Aggies) worked hard."

The Lobos rolled out of the half up 41-18 and had to be feeling good about the pounding they put on the Aggies in the first half. The Aggies had 18 first-half turnovers.

The second half was really a formality and a question mark as to whether UNM would be able to repeat the defensive intensity the Lobos showed in the first half. Remember, the Lobos ran away in the first half on NMSU in UNM's 97-87 win in Cruces, but allowed a second-half Aggie run to throw UNM into a four-point deficit.

The Lobos expanded their halftime lead it to 47-20 on two Martinez treys. UNM went up 51-24 on a power drive by Dairese Gary on an in-bounds pass from Hobson. The Aggies used a 3-pointer to hand UNM a 51-27 lead going into the first media break of the second half at 15:54.

Hardeman scooped a Gary air ball our of the air and threw down a soft dunk to push UNM into a 53-27 lead. The Aggies opened the second half shooting a bit better. NMSU was down 53-33 at the 13:27 mark. NMSU's Castillo scored underneath and added a free shot to cut UNM's lead to 53-36. The Aggies kept chipping away.

"We lost concentration," said Martinez. "We had some lack in intensity, but we got to learn from a win rather than a loss."

The Aggies definitely were playing with more confidence in the second half, but UNM helped by backing down a bit on the intensity level. "We got full of ourselves," said Hardeman. "And they (NMSU) don't back down."

The Aggies went from a 65-49 deficit into that 67-58 count with 2:56 to play. The Aggies had a chance to cut UNM's lead to 68-61, but missed a 3-pointer and Martinez banged in two free throws to make it 70-58 with 2:19 to go. That was the game. UNM drifted to the 75-58 final and raised the Lobos' record to 8-0.

First Half -- Lobos 41, NMSU 18

NMSU probably played a better defensive half in The Pit than the Aggies did in Cruces, but could not do much off UNM's pressure defense. Young and Gibson combined for 16 of NMSU's 18 points. The Aggies shot 30 percent in the first half and were destroyed by 18 turnovers and eight UNM steals. The board work favored UNM 21-to-18.

The Lobos were paced in the first half by Martinez with 11 points, Garth with eight and Hardeman with seven points and six boards. UNM shot 38.9 percent from the floor. UNM took 16 more shots than the Aggies and launched 11 more 3-pointers.

The Lobos took control of the game early and at the first media break at 15:44, UNM was up 7-3. The Lobos' scoring came on a Martinez trey off the baseline, a Martinez jumper in the lane and a Hobson baseline drive. The Aggies already had three turnovers and UNM had none. NMSU was 1-of-5 from the floor.

The Lobos took an 11-3 lead into the next break at 11:48. Hobson provided all the UNM points with two free throws and a layup he produced off an Aggie turnover. The Aggies got a jumper from Young near the free-throw line, but were having trouble with UNM's pressure defense.

The Lobos then put together a surge, but it wasn't in a flash. It was more steady and deliberate. The Lobos used a combination of defense and teamwork to push to a 24-7 lead. In that run, Fenton got a three and Hardeman got six points underneath. The play that got The Pit rocking was a Fenton, to Martinez to McDonald (layup). The Lobos carried that 24-7 lead into the 6:27 media break. UNM's final bucket in that 13-4 run was a Hardeman dunk.

A hard foul by Gibson on UNM's McDonald was called intentional at the 5:48 mark. The Lobo sophomore made one. Martinez followed that with a long trey: 28-7. NMSU's Gibson answered back with a trey: 28-10. Garth did the same: 31-10. At the 3:49 break, UNM was up by 20 points: 33-13.

Alford called a timeout with 1:08 to play and his Lobos up 41-18 -- 23 points. Martinez and Garth had padded UNM's lead with 3-pointers and Garth also added a layup taking a Martinez steal coast-to-coast. The score stayed at 41-18 going into the half.