Jan. 28, 2009
Wednesday: Lobos 68, Colorado State 50
Up Next: Lobos vs. Utah, 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Salt Lake City
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For a half, it looked like maybe the University of New Mexico Lobos had their minds somewhere else, on someone else. Like maybe in Salt Lake City. Like maybe on Luke Nevill and the Utah Utes.
Yeah, that game Saturday at Utah is going to be huge, pivotal, electric and maybe even high scoring. The Utes' 7-foot-2 big boy scored a career-high 32 points Tuesday night in a 94-88 overtime win over Brigham Young. But that game is down the road. The game the Lobos played Wednesday night in The Pit was still important and actually adds up in the win or loss column exactly the same as the game in Utah.
Fortunately, the Lobos beat Colorado State 68-50 and notched up another digit on the win side to raise the Lobos' season mark to 13-8. UNM also kept pace in the Mountain West Conference race for the top spot by going to 4-2. At this point of the season, the loss column is the key since no MWC team has fewer than two losses.
"This game, you have to concentrate," said Lobos coach Steve Alford, referring to his Lobos' sluggish start against the Rams. "I thought the key was at the defensive end. They've been a team that all year has had some pretty good runs. I don't think they had any runs of substance that mattered."
Said senior Chad Toppert: "It was very sluggish at times out there. There wasn't much energy."
The Lobos, leading 24-19 at the half, came out in the second half and had a pretty good run of 13-5 that pushed UNM into a 37-24 lead. Toppert, who finished with a game-high 18 points, scored eight points during that stretch. Toppert went 4-of-13 from the field, but his 8-of-9 effort from the line helped him reach double figures.
"As a shooter, you know you are going to miss some," said Toppert, who started against the Rams in place of the ill Phillip McDonald. "You block out the ones you miss. I just kept shooting. We came out in the second half and focused. Our defense kept us in the game."
Said Alford: "Top didn't have a particularly good shooting night, but he didn't stop shooting. He did a lot of good things for us."
The Rams actually shot 61.1 percent in the second half, but did have difficulty scoring off their set offense. UNM shot 52.2 percent in the second half and 43.5 percent for the game. UNM went 3-of-14 from behind the 3-point line and didn't hit a trey in the first half.
UNM's big edge was at the free throw line where the Lobos went 25-of-32 and CSU went 13-of-19. UNM went 17-of-17 from the line in the second half. "We didn't have a free throw clinic at haltime," said Alford, referring to his team's increased concentration in the second half.
Toppert was joined in double figures by Tony Danridge with 16 points and Daniel Faris with 14 point. Faris led all rebounders with eight. Dairese Gary had five assists and two steals. Freshman Nate Garth had three assists and three steals. Danridge went 8-of-8 from the line.
The lethargic Lobos of the first half came out with some spark to start the second half. UNM jumped to a 31-21 lead off a Toppert steal that he took in for a layup. CSU called a full timeout a few seconds later at the 18:15 mark. It was UNM's biggest lead of the game up to that point.
CSU came out of the timeout and Jesse Carr, who went 0-of-5 in the first half, hit a 3-pointer. On UNM's next possession, CSU's Andy Ogide was called for an intentional foul after throwing a forearm into Toppert's mug. Toppert hit the free shots to make it 33-24. Danridge hit a 17-footer to make it 35-24. Faris scored inside and it was 37-24 with 16:13 to go. The Lobos were beginning to separate themselves from the Rams.
Garth hit UNM's first trey of the night at 14:03 to push UNM up 40-29. The Rams cut it to 40-33 before Toppert banged in his first trey of the game at 12:02 and UNM was up by ten again, 43-33.
The Lobos came up with a steal at the other end and Toppert got a good look at a trey that bounced into Faris' hands for a put back and a 45-33 Lobos' lead. Faris got loose underneath to make it 47-33 going into the 10:25 media timeout.
At the 7:57 break, a Toppert trey from the left side had the Lobos sitting on a 52-37 lead. The Lobos were shooting 52.9 percent at that point, 9-of-17. CSU actually was 72.7 percent from the floor at that mark. UNM was 15-of-22 from the free throw line and CSU was 6-of-9.
The teams exchanged baskets over the next three minutes and when the Lobos called a 30-second timeout at 4:44, they were still up 58-43. The Rams cut into that lead a bit and at the 3:38 mark CSU was down 58-47, trying to claw back into the game with a press at one end and a dribble-drive attack at the other end. Faris threw in a jump hook to put the Lobos back up 62-47. The Lobos held on for the 68-50 final.
The Lobos scored 44 points in the second half, but only 24 in the first 20 minutes. At the first media timeout of the game at 15:49, the Lobos held a slim 5-4 lead. UNM got a bucket inside on a post move from Gary. Danridge scored on a short jumper off an offensive rebound. The Lobos slipped away to a 9-4 lead on a Danridge steal and an assist to Roman Martinez in the lane. Danridge also scored underneath off the glass.
At the 11:58 media break, CSU had cut the lead to 9-7. There was a lot of activity in the first half, but not a whole lot of productivity. At the 7:53 media time, UNM was up 15-11. UNM was 3-of-8 from the free throw line at that point. CSU was 3-of-11 from the field.
The Rams took advantage of UNM's cold shooting to grab a 17-15 lead which Faris erased at the free throw line at 4:45 by tossing in a pair. Faris skied high on a Jonathan Wills miss and tipped the ball back in for a 19-17 UNM lead going into the 3:52 break.
The Lobos ended the half on a 9-to-2 run to grab a 24-19 halftime lead. The Lobos were paced in the first half by Danridge with eight points and Martinez with six. UNM shot 34.8 percent and CSU shot 29.4 percent. UNM was 0-of-5 from the 3-point line.
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