Stevens: Lobos Slip Past CSU Rams 67-61; Move On To Battle BYU
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/10/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 10, 2011

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Lobo Men's Basketball - At The Mountain West Tournament
Thursday: Lobos 67, Colorado State 61
Friday: 7 p.m., No. 5 Lobos vs. No. 1 Brigham Young
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

LAS VEGAS -- The biggest shot of the game when it comes from Lobos should come from the hands of Dairese Gary, Phillip McDonald, Kendall Williams or maybe Drew Gordon.

But Lobo coach Steve Alford pulled a secret weapon off the bench with 2:07 to play in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament - Cameron Bairstow.

It's doubtful the Rams even knew the name of the New Mexico freshman, who sent a dagger into Colorado State's heart and an 18-foot jumper into the heart of the net with 57 seconds to go. The bucket put UNM up 63-59 and really was the edge the Lobos needed to hang on to their dramatic 67-61 win over CSU.

For the Lobos, it's bring on Brigham Young! Bring on Jimmer Fredette. The 29-3 Cougars and the tourney's No. 1 seed scratched out a 64-58 win Thursday over TCU. The Lobos get a chance to knock off the Cougars for the third time this season beginning at 7 p.m. in the Vegas Thomas & Mack Center.

"We know we have our hands full tomorrow," said Alford. "We have been fortunate in two games that we have played well. But we know what we are up against."

The Cougars haven't looked the same -- and definitely are damaged inside -- with 6-9 Brandon Davies no longer on the team. A key for BYU will be stopping UNM's post game and not getting hammered on the boards. The Lobos need to throw some nasty defense on the edge and not allow Fredette and the Cougars to get hot from long range.

The inside game was huge for UNM vs. CSU. UNM won the board battle 41-28 getting 13 rebounds from Gordon and nine from A.J. Hardeman. Gordon scored 13 inside and Hardeman scored 10 points. Ironically, Bairstow came in to hit his Ram-killer when Hardeman fouled out at the 2:07 mark.

"A.J. has been tremendous," said Alford. "But how about Cam's bucket. Wow!"

The Lobos buckled down on defense in the closing minutes and Gordon took over the boards. The 6-9 junior hit three free throws in the final 34 seconds to help UNM keep the Rams at bay.

"Our team has always found ways to get stops, stops, stops," said Craig Neal, UNM's Associate Head Coach. "They are an amazing group. They are so resilient. We didn't shoot well, but we guarded and contended and found a way to win."

The Lobos were paced in scoring by Williams with 16 points. McDonald and Gary each chipped in nine points. Gary had five assists and Gordon had four assists and three blocked shots. Hardeman had four steals in his 32 minutes.

"That's what we thought A.J. was going to give us all year," said coach Neal. "That's our expectations from A.J. I think he was the key to our game, but he has been a key to big wins all year. I'm happy for him."

"We are playing good basketball and finding ways to win."

Both the Lobos and the Cougars found ways to win Thursday in the Thomas & Mack. The Cougars have not looked as dominant since losing Davies. The Lobos are winning games the way they usually win games - by grinding it out, playing defense, and making big plays down the stretch.

"I thought at the end we made the plays we needed to win," said Alford.

CSU was paced by Andy Ogide, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. Wes Eikmeier had 14 points and Dorian Green had 13 points with four assists. The Rams didn't have much help on the scoreboard after that trio.

The Rams shot 45.3 percent from the floor to 39.3 percent for UNM. The Lobos went 17-of-25 from the line while CSU went 8-of-12.

Second Half: Colorado State 32, Lobos 31

The Lobos came out early in the first half and outworked the Rams to build a 46-38 lead. Then the Rams got hot and went on a 9-0 run to take a 47-46 lead. Alford called time at the 12:21 mark, following a Green trey that gave CSU that one-point lead. At the 11:43 break, CSU was still up 47-46.

The Lobos got two free throws by Gordon and a trey by Fenton to go up 51-47. CSU got a trey by Eikmeier followed by a layup by Eikmeier and CSU was up 52-51. Gordon went to the line at the 8:07 mark and put UNM up 53-52. At the 6:33 media stop, an Ogide bucket had CSU up 54-53 and in possession of the ball.

Dairese Gary -- 9 points, 5 assists

CSU came out of the break and worked the ball inside to Ogide. He got bumped by Gordon and went to the line for a one-and-one. The big Ram made one: 55-53. Hardeman formed a 55-all time with a spin move inside. Eikmeier went to the line at 5:44 shooting a one-and one. He made both: 57-55.

UNM tied the game 57-all on a Gordon reverse layup off a Gary feed. UNM claimed a 59-57 lead on a Hardeman tip off a Gordon miss. UNM had a chance to extend its lead after an Eikmeier air ball, but McDonald missed a trey from the right side.

The Lobos got the ball back as Gordon swatted an Ogide shot with weak-side help. Hardeman turned it over at the other end with a charge. Eikmeier drove the lane and sent Hardeman to the bench with his fifth foul at 2:07. The Ram was shooting two and made both: 59-all.

UNM got a huge bucket as Gary went backdoor, scored and was fouled at 1:47. The senior missed the free shot: 61-59. Ogide forced up a bad shot inside and UNM had the ball with 1:27 to play. Williams lost the ball in traffic in the lane, got tied up, but the arrow favored UNM at the 1:06 mark.

UNM brought the ball in and had a little trouble with the Rams' pressure defense, which wasn't paying much attention to Bairstow. He popped out and hit a 16-footer. UNM was up 63-59. CSU called time with 45 seconds to play.

Eikmeier missed short on an 18-footer and Gordon pulled down the board. The transfer from UCLA was at the line with 34.9 to go. He made both: 65-59. Green forced up a baseline trey over pressure and Gordon had another rebound. He was quickly fouled and was at the line with 20.1 to go. He made one: 66-59.

Ogide got a dunk with 10.1 to play: 66-61. CSU quickly fouled McDonald and he put the final points on the board at the 9.7 mark. UNM won 67-61.

First Half: Lobos 36, Colorado State 29
Lobo Stat Leaders:
Williams 9 pts., McDonald 8 pts., Hardeman 6 pts., 5 rebs.

The Lobos won several key stat battles in the first half to grab their biggest lead going into the locker room. UNM pounded CSU on the glass 17-9, had two more 3-pointers, and five more free throws.

The Rams jumped out 5-0 on a trey by Green and a follow by Ogide. UNM came back to take a 6-5 lead at the 15:55 break. UNM got ahead on a Williams' steal, a pass to Gary, and a drop-back pass to Gordon for the dunk.

UNM went up 9-5 when Hardeman broke down the defense on a drive and found McDonald open on the baseline for a trey. McDonald hit another jumper on a drive to his left to put UNM up 11-7. Williams hit a trey on the left wing to put UNM up 14-10 and then five straight points by Ogide handed the Rams a 15-14 lead going into the 11:57 break.

UNM went up 19-15 on a trey by Fenton. Ogide came back with an inside bucket: 19-17. A UNM turnover led to an Ogide layup and a 19-all tie. That score held up at the 7:29 break.

The Lobos got two hustle buckets from Hardeman and a Ram batted a pass inside that went into the UNM bucket and UNM was up 25-21. CSU got two baskets from Green to tie the game 25-all at the 3:39 break.

The Lobos got their 36-29 halftime lead with a 6-0 run fueled by field goals by Williams and Gary and two free throws by Williams.