Nov. 16, 2008
Sunday: Creighton 82, Lobos 75
Up Next: Lobos vs. Grambling, 7 p.m. Thursday, The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
OMAHA, NEB. -- For 30 minutes, the University of New Mexico Lobos made a strong statement about the type of basketball team they can be during the 2008-09 season. For ten minutes, the Lobos found out a few things they need to work on in order to be that team.
And No. 1 on that list might be, "Defense."
"When you guard like that, especially on the road against a very good team, you set yourself up for failure," said Lobos' coach Steve Alford after UNM's 82-75 loss Sunday at Creighton. "It doesn't matter to me how much you score, it's what you're not giving up at the other end and we gave up way too much at the other end."
The Lobos shrugged off the pressure of the road and the negative energy of 16,107 Bluejay fans and led the game by 16 points with 10:17 to play, 10 points with 7:32 to play and nine points with 3:39 to play.
Then the Bluejays, who got career-high nights from P'Allen Stinnett (30) and Booker Woodfox (26) rolled off 17 unanswered points. UNM went from being up 72-63 to being down 80-72 with 19.9 seconds to play.
"It's a 40 minute game," said Alford, who saw his Lobos drop to 1-1 on the season. "The last ten minutes, you just can't play that way and expect to win. It was very frustrating. We, as coaches, have to get this team tougher."
The BlueJays made a small run at the close of the first half to cut a 37-22 UNM lead into a 37-27 hole going into the break. They made a gigantic run in the final 3:39 that was aided by Lobo turnovers and missed shots.
A pivotal stretch in that Creighton run came when the Bluejays scored eight straight points aided by four Lobo turnovers and a missed Lobo trey. The last UNM turnover in that 8-0 run came after a Creighton 3-pointer that put the Jays up 76-72. Creighton stole the in-bounds pass and two Bluejay free throws iced the game 78-72 with 28 seconds to play.
The Lobos had done an excellent job of keeping the Creighton crowd, the largest home-opening crowd in school history, out of the game for 30 minutes. The crowd came alive in the final minutes along with their Jays, and along with Stinnett and Woodfox.
"We don't have that defensive stopper," said Alford. "We have to find that. Two guys got 56 points. We have to send clearer messages as coaches on what we expect at the defensive end. We just couldn't stop two guys. There might have been one possession in the last ten minutes where we got a stop."
"You're up 15 with 12 to go, it's about leadership. That's something we're searching for right now. Part of identity is finding out whose going to be a leader on this team."
The Lobos were led in scoring by Tony Danridge with 23 and Roman Martinez with 15 points. Martinez had 14 points in the first half. The Lobos got seven points and five rebounds from their four freshmen, who came off the bench. Chad Toppert, a senior, had seven points off the bench, but UNM's 3-point artist went 1-of-3 from behind the line.
The Lobos pounded Creighton by 13 rebounds in the first half, but that stat evened up in the second half and UNM finished with a 39-28 bulge. UNM shot well from the field, 48.3 percent for the game. UNM allowed Creighton to shoot 60 percent from the floor in the second half after holding the Jays to 29.2 percent in the first half.
Another key stat was the Bluejays going 25-of-33 from the free throw line to 10-of-15 for the Lobos. "They were at the line all night, we weren't. That was a big key," said Alford. "We just fouled too much."
The first half went about as well as the Lobos could have expected taking a freshmen-laden team on the road for their second-ever college game and having to play in front of 16,107 mostly-anti-Lobo fans.
Danridge and Martinez were the scoring stars in the first half. The crafty Martinez went 6-of-10 from the floor and led all scorers in the half with 12. Danridge went on a four-for-four field goal run to score his eight points. His burst seemed to give UNM an extra bolt of confidence.
The Lobos' defense also was a star of the first half, forcing Creighton into a 7-of-24 shooting half (29 percent) that included a 2-of-12 effort from behind the line. The Lobos shot 16-of-33 in the first half for 48 percent.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner