Jan. 30, 2010
Saturday: Lobos 73, TCU 57
Up Next: San Diego State at Lobos, Saturday (Feb. 6), 4 p.m., The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The New Mexico Lobos used a 73-57 win at TCU Saturday to pull into the halfway mark of the Mountain West Conference race on a six-game win streak that should quickly come in handy in the league's second-half run.
The Lobos open the backstretch with a couple of MWC bullies.
The second half of the MWC race begins for Lobos going against the two teams that pushed UNM into that 0-2 hole -- San Diego State and UNLV. The Lobos have no mid-week game next week, but play host to the San Diego State Aztecs at 4 p.m. Saturday in The Pit. After the Aztecs, the Lobos (20-3, 6-2 MWC) go on the road to UNLV, trying to avenge a Pit loss to the Rebels.
Lobo coach Steve Alford says he'll give his young team a little rest early this week while he and his coaching staff hit the recruiting trails. Alford said, "it's going to be fun" talking to would-be Lobos with his 2009-10 team sitting at 20-3 and carrying a national ranking.
Alford also might talk up the road work this year's team and his program has kicked out. UNM is 3-1 on the MWC road this season and Alford's program has 20 road wins total.
"We started out in league play 0-2 and for these kids to respond and win six in a row, three on the road, that speaks volumes for our toughness," said Alford. "I thought for 40 minutes our defense was very solid (vs. TCU)."
Alford might have liked his defense against the Horned Frogs, but he wasn't all that thrilled with his Lobos' 30-28 halftime lead that he thought should have been more like 12 points.
"The halftime was pretty spirited," he said. "Nobody did any talking except for me. I thought we needed, I don't know, I was just very unhappy with our concentration."
The second half was better -- much better. The Lobos raced out of that 30-28 lead using a 15-to-6 run to jump into a 45-34 lead. The final UNM bucket in that run came off a spin move and a layup by Curtis Dennis. The Lobos never lost control of the game after that mark.
"The second half is the half we shot the ball really well," said Alford of his Lobos' 46.9 shooting night. UNM shot 52 percent in the second half.
TCU shot 40 percent. The Lobos also did a good job getting to the foul line where they went 20-of-27 while TCU went 2-of-9 from the charity stripe.
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Darington Hobson led the Lobos with 19 points and seven boards. Phillip McDonald stayed hot with 18 points and Roman Martinez kicked in 16 points and seven rebounds. The Lobos got nine boards off the bench from Will Brown. TCU got 30 points from Ronnie Moss and 11 from Zvonko Buljan.
"We beat them 15 on the glass (40-25)," said Alford. "We hold them to 57 points on their home floor. I don't have a lot to complain about."
The Lobos' defense was a thing of balance as much as a thing of beauty. UNM held TCU to 28 first-half points and 29 second-half points. The Lobos poured in 43 points in the final 20 minutes.
"It wasn't anything we changed at halftime," said Alford. "They just concentrated harder. We got out and ran, but they (TCU) didn't very much. I kind of thought it was a grind-out game. Our guys are really guarding."
The Lobos guarded with pressure and position without putting the Frogs at the line. That was a huge difference in the game along with the boards. UNM outscored TCU by 18 at the line and won by 16 points.
The Lobos fought to a 30-28 halftime lead and then went up 38-32 on two baskets inside by Hobson: a baseline drive and a short bank shot from the right side.
A TCU miss led to a quick Martinez trey out of transition from the right baseline. The 41-32 Lobo lead convinced TCU to call a timeout. At the 11:52 media break, Dennis' spin move and layup in the paint pushed UNM up 45-34 -- 11 points.
The Lobos protected that lead and got a nice break at 6:55 when Martinez got fouled forcing up a fadeaway trey. The Lobos senior made all three free shots and UNM was up 56-41 -- 15 points. TCU then battled back to 58-47 before Hobson pushed UNM back up 60-47, hitting two free throws.
Martinez got open inside and flipped in a shot to put the Lobos up 62-50. TCU missed at the other end and Alford called a timeout at 4:12.
A pair of Hobson free throws made it 64-50 for UNM. A McDonald bucket from the right baseline pushed UNM up 67-52 -- back to 15 points. UNM called a timeout with 2:25 to go. Gary made it 69-52 scoring on a drive off a nice pass from McDonald. The Lobos coasted to the 73-57 final.