Jan. 6, 2009
Tuesday: UTEP 73, Lobos 60
Up Next: Lobos vs. Air Force, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The worst numbers were up on the scoreboard: UTEP 73, New Mexico 60. But Lobos coach Steve Alford was quick to point out some other numbers that led to that hurtful final Tuesday night in The Pit.
"We only had one guy make more than 50 percent of his shots and he was in foul trouble," said Alford. "That makes it pretty difficult."
The one guy was senior Daniel Faris, who went 4-of-5 from the field and 8-of-11 from the line to finish with 16 points. The rest of the UNM team combined to go 11-of-47. The other Lobo starters went 6-of-27. Senior Tony Danridge went 1-of-9. The University of New Mexico bench went 5-of-20.
You kick Faris' good stats back in there and UNM still shot 28.8 percent from the floor, 26.9 percent in the second half. UTEP shot 39.6 percent for the game and an even 50 percent in the second half.
"They just had a much better second half than what we did," said Alford, who said his Lobos were not tough enough Tuesday night to beat the visitors from El Paso.
Said Lobo Roman Martinez, an El Paso product: "We weren't tough, like coach said. It stings a lot. Defensively we have to make stops even if we are missing shots. We took this as a big-time game. It's a home game and we're not supposed to lose at home. It's a tough loss."
The defeat drops UNM to 9-7 on the season. The Lobos are 0-1 in the Mountain West Conference going into Saturday's 7:30 p.m. tip in The Pit with Air Force. UNM's conference loss came at UNLV this past Saturday.
Coach Alford said before the UTEP game that he was not happy with having to play a non-conference game after the MWC season had begun, but he did not use that as an excuse for his team's poor play vs. the Miners.
"We just couldn't make a shot and the longer we went without making a shot, that affected our defense," said Alford. "(UTEP) is going to be really good. They are loaded with size and athleticism. We'll try to get away (from the loss) tomorrow (Wednesday) and then try to concentrate on Air Force for Saturday."
Faris was joined in double figures by Danridge, who went 10-of-12 from the line, and Chad Toppert with 11 points. Dairese Gary led UNM on the boards with six. UTEP won the board battle 41-to-33 and had 16 assists to seven for UNM. The edge in assists can be attributed, in part, to UTEP shots going in and UNM shots not going in.
The Miners were led by Stefon Jackson with 18 points; 12-of-12 from the line. Randy Culpepper had 14 points, Tavaris Watts and Julyan Stone each had 12 points and Arnett Moultrie had 10 points. UTEP went 26-of-29 from the line and UNM had a good night at 25-of-33.
"They are a very good team," said UNM's Martinez. "We need to play better to beat a good team like that, especially in conference. We need to dig down deep and play with heart."
The Lobos had a 27-24 halftime lead, but the Miners grabbed the lead 34-32 at the 15:54 mark. Toppert got UNM's first trey of the game at 15:02 to cut the Miners' lead to 36-35. At 13:39, Gary banged in UNM's second trey and the Lobos were back up 40-38. Then it was UTEP's turn for a short run.
A trey by Watts followed by a drive by Culpepper and the Miners were up 45-42 at the 11:44 media time. Faris picked up his fourth foul at 10:57 with a push and Watts got whistled for a technical on the play. Toppert made both free shots to make it 45-44. Culpepper popped in a 10-footer on the baseline and UTEP was up 49-44. Alford called a timeout with 10:01 to play.
The Miners came out of the break to get a layup from Moultrie. He was fouled on the drive and hit the free shot to make it 52-44 at 9:28. The Miners got fouled underneath, a Martinez push, and Stone threw in two free throws to hand the Miners a 10-point lead at 54-44. The Lobos never really got back into the game after that point.
UNM got two free throws by Danridge to make it 54-47 with 8:23 to play. UTEP's Moultrie got behind the UNM defense at the 7:09 mark for a layup and a 56-47 Miner lead. The Lobos were shooting 4-of-15 from the field at that mark.
Danridge was back at the line at 6:57 and hit one to make it 56-48. UTEP's Jackson got loose on the baseline and drove in for a layup to put UTEP up 58-48. UTEP's Gabriel McCulley banged down two free ones at 4:51 to give UTEP a 60-49 lead.
UNM came out of a media time at 3:54 and Danridge knocked down two free throws to make it 60-51. The UNM press got a steal, but Toppert missed a way-long trey and UTEP's Culpepper soared to get the board. Jackson then drove the middle and kicked off to Watts for a reverse layup and a 62-51 UTEP lead.
The Miners still had their 11-point lead at 2:13 when Toppert grabbed Stone and sent him to the line for two. He made them both, UTEP was up 64-51 and that pretty much sealed the Miners' win.
The Miners started off the first half cold, 2-of-10 from the floor, and Faris started out hot, scoring all UNM's points in the Lobos 7-5 lead. The Miners used some good board work and shot blocking to help them grab an 11-9 lead with 10:30 to play. UNM had missed eight straight field goals and were now 2-of-10 from the field. UTEP had a 12-6 edge on the boards at that point.
The half was not one for dead-eye shooting, but a Culpepper trey at 4:48 put the El Paso visitors up 22-14. The Lobos scratched back and went into a media timeout at 3:35 down 22-18. UNM was 5-of-19 from the floor for 26.3 percent.
Gary took a nice lead pass from Toppert and got two points on a UTEP goaltending call at 3:17. Danridge knocked down two free throws to tie the game 22-all. UNM won the battle of hustle in the final minutes and a Martinez tip gave UNM its 27-24 halftime lead.
UNM ended up shooting 30.8 percent for the half and UTEP went into the break at 29.6 percent. The Lobos rallied to win the board battle 22-to-17. UNM was 0-of-8 from behind the line in the first half, but did a nice job at the line going 11-of-13.
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