Stevens: Lobos Pound Colorado 89-76 To Advance to Title Game
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/22/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 22, 2010

Box Score |  Notes

Lobo Men's Basketball - At IBN Las Vegas Classic
Lobos 89, Colorado 76; Northern Iowa 67, Indiana 61
Thursday's Championship: 8 p.m., Lobos vs. Northern Iowa
On The Air: CBS College (TV); 770-AM KKOB / Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

So much for Indiana. So much for the BCS Conference element of the IBN Las Vegas Classic. It's the New Mexico Lobos vs. Northern Iowa at 8 p.m. (MT) Thursday for the championship of the 2010 IBN Las Vegas Classic.

The Lobos powered past Colorado 89-76 behind 18 points by senior Dairese Gary and 18 by freshman Kendall Williams. Earlier Wednesday night Northern Iowa slapped down Indiana 67-61.

The 10-1 Lobos were in a run-and-gun shootout with Colorado in the semis. One key in the championship game will be tempo. The Panthers are more deliberate on offense and more disciplined on defense.

"They are a hard team to play against," Lobo coach Steve Alford said of Northern Iowa. "Their guys understand winning and our guys understand winning.

"We'll be up long into the night trying to put a game plan together. They (Panthers) compete. They fights and It should make for a great championship game because you have two teams who are very hungry for it."

There were some key stats that jump out in UNM's win over Colorado. The Lobos shot 61.2 percent from the field, 24-of-28 from the free-throw line and outrebounded the Buffaloes 35-23. UNM's high percentage was fueled by a solid inside game and a lot of power drives to the basket.

UNM's Phillip McDonald scored 14 points, 6-foot-9 Drew Gordon had 10 points and seven boards, and freshman Alex Kirk had 10 rebounds. Gary went 10-of-10 from the free-throw line and Williams shot 7-of-8. Colorado got 25 points from Alec Burks.

Williams had a monster game with 11 assists and three steals and often was the UNM defender on Colorado's Cory Higgins, who went 4-of-13 from the field. That assist number by the first-year Lobo was the most by a UNM freshman since John Robinson had 11 in 1999. Williams was named the Route 66 Casino/Hotel Player of The Game by the Lobo Radio Network.

"We are seeing a special freshman develop here," said Alford of Williams. "Kendall had a big-time night. He has great speed to him and we have to continue to turn him loose."

Williams' assist number obviously was aided by Lobos running good offense, taking high-percentage shots - and making them. "I thought we executed very well on the offensive end," said Alford. " Our freshmen are growing up and I don't know how much more I can say about Dairese Gary.

"This kid goes as hard as he can every minute he's out there. He is a very physical guard, who knows how to use his body. He does so much for our program."

Northern Iowa (8-3) went on a 16-3 run vs. Indiana to take a 42-29 first-half lead, but Indiana fought back into a 59-59 tie with 2:35 left to play. The Panthers held on for the win getting 24 points from senior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe. Ahelegbe made 7-of-14 shots from the field and made 8-of-10 from the foul line. UNI's Johnny Mora poured in 15 points, including 4-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Second Half: Lobos 48, Colorado 43

The Lobos came out of the half up by eight points and extended it to 48-38 on a jump hook inside by Kirk. At the 14:10 media break, Colorado had used a trey to cut UNM's lead to 48-41. The Buffs were having trouble cutting into UNM's lead, but at the 11:15 break, they were hanging around at 53-47.

The Lobos were running smoothly on offense, but couldn't get the stops on the other end. UNM got four points off Jamal Fenton drives and a soft dunk by McDonald to go up 59-51. An A.J. Hardeman move inside made it 61-53. Another Hardeman power move inside pushed UNM up 63-53.

A Williams drive 7:47 kept UNM's lead at 10 points, 65-55, going into the 7:47 break. Gordon handed UNM its biggest lead at 12, 67-55, on another power move inside. Coach Alford called a timeout at the 6:06 mark with his team up 69-57, off a long jumper by Tony Snell.

At the 3:29 media break, UNM was in good shape, up 71-63, off a Gary steal and coast-to-coast drive. The Lobos needed to throw out a few basics to finish the win: play defense, rebound, take care of the basketball, attack the basket and make the short shots or hit some free throws.

The Lobos stayed up 75-65 scoring on power drives by Williams and Gary. At the 2:20 mark, Gary was fouled on the Colorado full-court press. The Lobo senior made both shots: 77-66. The Buffs scored inside on an in-bounds play: 77-68. Gary was fouled at the 2:00 mark, again on the Colorado press. Gary made two again: 79-69.

Williams was fouled at the 1:17 mark and again at the 1:06 mark. He made all four to keep UNM up 83-74. Hardeman added two free throws and UNM was up 85-74 going into a UNM timeout with 38.8 to play. Gary got two more at the line at 37.1: 87-74. Williams went to the line at 19.9: 89-76, which cemented the final.

First Half: Lobos 41, Colorado 33
Stat Leaders: McDonald 10 pts., Williams 8 pts., 5 assts.; Kirk 9 rebs.

You shoot 65.2 percent in a half and you should take a lead into the locker room. The Lobos did just that, blistering the nets at a 15-for-23 pace. Colorado shot 40 percent - not bad, but bad enough to find itself in an eight-point hole.

The Lobos also had a 19-to-8 edge of the backboard, paced by nine boards by Kirk. The Lobos had 11 assists, five by Williams, to two assists for the Buffaloes.

The Lobos got off to a good start and took a 13-6 lead into the first media break. The Lobos punished Colorado early with a series of treys: two long bombs from Williams and Kirk, and an old-fashioned 3-pointer from Hardeman inside.

UNM came out of that break to take an 18-8 lead on a trey by McDonald and a driving, left-handed layup by Williams.

An alley-oop pass from Gary to McDonald for a running dunk gave UNM a 22-13 lead going into the second media timeout. Colorado threw down a couple of treys sandwiched around a short Gary jumper to make it 24-19 at the 10:00 mark.

At the 7:57 break, UNM was up 26-22. UNM went up 36-26 on a Snell trey from the left baseline. At the 2:57 mark, Gary hit two free throws to keep UNM up by 10, 38-28. Colorado cut UNM's lead to 39-33 when Burks scored on a drive. Snell closed the first-half scoring to hand UNM its 41-33 halftime lead.

New Mexico vs. Colorado Game Notes:

* The Lobos never trailed.
* The Lobos have won 8 in a row and are 40-6 since the start of the 2009-10 season.
* UNM shot 61.2% (30-49) from the floor, the best since Feb. 19, 2005 against BYU (62%, 31-60). UNM started the game by making 10 of it first 13 FGs.
* UNM shot a season-high 86% (24-28) from the FT line and made its last 14 attempts. The Lobos have made 44-54 FTs (81%) the past two games.
* After committing just 14 turnovers in the previous two games, UNM was guilty of 18 vs. Colorado.
* UNM is 37-1 under Steve Alford when scoring 80 points or more.
* UNM is 34-2 in its last 36 games when outrebounding its opponent; the Lobos had a 35-23 edge tonight and it's 160-103 in UNM's favor the past 4 games, an advantage of more than 14 boards a game.