Stevens: SIU Coach Expects Alford's Lobos To Be Nasty On Defense
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/30/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 30, 2010

Game Notes: New Mexico at Southern Illinois Get Acrobat

Lobo Men's Basketball - At Southern Illinois
7:05 p.m., Lobos at Southern Illinois
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Jamal Fenton threw out a bold statement when he said the 2010-11 Lobos planned to do better on the road this season.

You have to like Fenton's spunk and confidence as the Lobos head to Southern Illinois to battle the Salukis in Carbondale. Ill. You have to like a Lobo who plans to hit the road with that road-warrior mentality. That's part of winning those games labeled "away."

But it's also true that Lobo coach Steve Alford might be as much babysitter as he is coach until some of his young Lobo pups grow some teeth. And UNM's road record in 2009-2010 was nothing short of amazing at 10-2. That's a tough mark to beat. Heck, that's a tough mark to equal and UNM takes a 0-1 record into Missouri Valley territory.

Part of Alford's road philosophy is to play nasty defense, make it difficult on the other team to do what it wants to do, and be in the game in the final five minutes. A team that wins on the road definitely is good at stopping the home team from going on scoring spurts and getting the home crowd into the act.

Are Alford's 2010-11 Lobos ready to do those things on the road? They weren't ready at Cal-Berkeley in a 25-point spanking. They gave up scoring spurts. They weren't in the game at the end.

But things change and these Lobos are changing.

The truth about these young Lobos is you can see the improvement and you can appreciate the depth, the talent, and the multi-dimensional attacks. There was good inside-outside punch in UNM's 75-46 smoking of San Diego Sunday in The Pit.

The Lobos shot a warm 50 percent from the floor, took care of business on the backboard, 37-26, and threw out a defense that held the Toreros to 37 percent shooting.

Those numbers win in The Pit and probably win on the road, too. But Lobos are never as young in The Pit as they are on the highway.

The Lobos' (4-1) visit to SIU (3-3) is part of the Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge. Salukis' coach Chris Lowery said he likes what he sees in Alford's Lobos and expects Alford to lean a lot on his defense to pick up a win in Carbondale.

"It's a Bobby Knight kind of deal," said Lowery, referring to Alford's playing days under coach Knight at Indiana. "He's going to guard."

One Saluki the Lobos are sure to pay attention to is SIU's only double-figure scorer: Gene Teague. This 6-foot-9 post averages 11 points and 7.2 boards a game. He has six blocks.

Teague is active inside and sets out to establish that he is the dominate inside player on the court. UNM's 6-8 A.J. Hardeman, 6-11 Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow might have to deal with Teague as a committee.


What's A Saluki?
It's a old breed of tall, slender, smooth-skinned hunting dogs developed in Egypt and Arabia. It resembles a greyhound.


Coach Lowery says, "(The Lobos) are going to do things to take Gene (Teague) away, take some of our other driving options away. They really guard people well and that's their strength.

"They have a lot of guys left over from last year's team and they're hungry to prove that they're a good basketball team this year."

SIU also has 6-5 John Freeman averaging 9.8 points per game, 6-4 Justin Bucot at 9.7 and 6-8 Fay Carlton averaging 9.7 points.

The Salukis are not a high-tempo offensive machine and a lot of what makes them successful comes on the defensive end. They have made 20 treys in six games. They can be tough on dribble-drive penetration.

The Lobos obviously lean to senior Dairese Gary for scoring, but also for leadership and clutch baskets on the road. New Mexico has balanced scoring with only Gary (12.6) and junior Phillip McDonald (12.0) in double figures. Both SIU and UNM have solid depth on the bench.

The Lobos don't get much of a traveling break this week as they bus to Las Cruces and play the New Mexico State Aggies at 7 p.m. Saturday.