March 8, 2004
The University of New Mexico takes on the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament Thursday from the Pepsi Center in Denver. Tipoff is 10 p.m. Mountain Time. The contest will be televised live by ESPN.
After seven straight years of playing conference tournaments in Las Vegas (Western Athletic 1997-1999; MWC 2000-03), the next three MWC tourneys will be contested in Denver.
New Mexico is 14-13 overall and finished 5-9 in the MWC following a 76-66 loss last Saturday in the regular-season finale at Colorado State. The Lobos have lost five of their last six, but finished in a tie for fifth place in the loop with San Diego State. UNM was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll.
UNLV is 16-11 overall and ended 7-7 in the MWC after falling at home to BYU Saturday, 89-88. Interim head coach Jay Spoonhour is 4-2 after taking over for his father, Charlie, who stepped down last month.
Among the seven MWC opponents, UNLV has the longest current winning streak against New Mexico at six games. The Lobos' last victory over the Runnin' Rebels was an 84-81 overtime decision in The Pit on Feb. 5, 2002. UNLV defeated UNM 78-75 last Monday in Albuquerque.
New Mexico is 0-2 against UNLV in conference tournament play. The Runnin' Rebels won the 1998 Western Athletic Conference title game with a 56-51 triumph in Las Vegas. Two years ago at the Thomas and Mack, UNLV knocked the Lobos out in the first round with a 120-117 double-overtime thriller in the highest-scoring game in school history.
Additionaly, UNLV is the only MWC team Lobo head coach Ritchie McKay has not beaten in his career. McKay is 0-8 against the Rebels.
UNM has lost 26 straight road games overall, 27 consecutive including neutral sites, and 19 MWC games in a row. The last win away from Albuquerque was Jan. 28, 2002, a 70-64 decision at Colorado State. It's UNM's longest losing skid away from home in more than 40 years.
The Lobos are playing a basketball game in Denver for the first time since the 1999 NCAA Tournament. Five years ago, No. 25 UNM beat Missouri 61-59 in a first-round game at McNichols Arena before falling to third-ranked and eventual national champion Connecticut 78-56 in the second round.
New Mexico is guaranteed of no worse than a .500 record, a feat it has now accomplished in 20 of the past 21 seasons. After going 10-18 last season, UNM will avoid consecutive losing seasons for what would have been only the second time in more than four decades. New Mexico was 6-20 in 1979-80 and 11-15 in 1980-81. The Lobos have only had four losing campaigns since former head coach Bob King arrived in Albuquerque prior to the 1962-63 season.
New Mexico has surpassed last year's win total by four games and its conference mark by one (4-10). UNM finished 14-4 in The Pit this year, winning five of its last six and 12 of 14. The Lobos were 10-7 at home last year.
UNM has had a full roster the past 21 games - since Dec. 21 - when Granger (Bradley) and Troy DeVries (Portland State) became eligible as mid-season transfers. The twosome has been UNM's top-two scorers since taking the court. UNM is 11-10 since their arrival, 11-2 in The Pit.
At 19.8 points a game, Granger is leading the MWC in scoring. He is averaging 9.0 rebounds, good for 5th in the league. Granger became the first Lobo since Kenny Thomas in 1997-98 to record four straight double-doubles.
DeVries is averaging 11.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists, including 12 dishes against Coppin State, the best total by a Lobo in 12 years. He is shooting 44.9% (53-118) from 3-point, an average of 2.52 treys a game, third-best in the MWC.
GRANGER NAMED FIRST TEAM ALL-MWC - Junior Danny Granger was named first team all-Mountain West Conference the league announced on March 8. The transfer from Bradley joins Lamont Long (2000) and Ruben Douglas (2002 and '03) as Lobos who earned a spot on the first team since the league started in 1999-2000.
Granger is attempting to become just the second Lobo in the past 33 years to average more than 19 points and 9 rebounds for an entire season. Luc Longley (19.1 and 9.2) did so in 1991. Willie Long (23.9/12.9 in 1970 and 23.9/10.6 in '71) and Mel Daniels (21.2/10.3 in 1966 and 21.5/11.6 in '67) each did it twice, while Ira Harge was the first to do it in 1963 (21.1 and 13.2).
Granger leads the league in scoring at 19.8 ppg and he is fifth in rebounding (9.0). He also ranks among the MWC top-15 in six other categories for conference only games: FG percentage, 3-point FGs made, assists, FT percentage, steals and blocks.
If Granger maintains his scoring lead, it will be the fourth time in five years a Lobo has captured the title. Long averaged 18.7 ppg in 2000. Douglas averaged 18.1 ppg in 2002 and a nation-leading 28.0 ppg a year ago.
LOBOS' CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT HISTORY - When including Western Athletic Conference Tournament play, UNM has an overall record of 24-18 and has played in the championship game seven times, winning twice (1993 and '96).
UNM has not fared as well in the Mountain West tourney, compiling a 2-4 overall mark, including first-round exits in three of the four years. The Lobos lost to BYU in the 2001 title game, but were eliminated in the first round in 2000, '02 and '03.
UNM IN THE NCAA STATS - Through games of Sunday, March 7, New Mexico ranked tied for 14th in the nation in 3-point FGs made per game at 8.63. Through March 1, Troy DeVries was the 12th most accurate 3-point shooter, making 44.9% (53-118) of his attempts, while Javin Tindall was 21st at 43.5% (70-161). Danny Granger was No. 28 in scoring average at 19.8 a game.
LOBOS VS. UNLV - UNLV has a 17-9 lead in a series that started Jan. 17, 1976. The Rebels have taken six straight and 10 of the last 12, including seven consecutive in Las Vegas. The last New Mexico victory in Las Vegas was 75-66 on Feb. 16, 1998.
The Rebels shot an impressive 54.6% (59-108) from the floor against UNM this season, including 51.4% (18-35) from 3-point.
Javin Tindall averaged 22 points against the Rebels, including 27 at Las Vegas when he tied a school record and set an MWC mark with nine 3s. Odartey Blankson scored 48 points in two games against the Lobos, going 6 of 7 from the arc.
March 1 in Albuquerque: Odartey Blankson scored 11 straight points late in the second half and finished with a career-high 28 in UNLV's 78-75 win. Blankson's scoring spree over a period of less than three minutes put the Rebels over the top in the up-tempo game that saw the two teams combine for 18 3-pointers while putting up 125 shots.
UNLV held off the Lobos behind Jerel Blassingame's five straight points inside of two minutes and Demetrius Hunter's two free throws with 17.9 seconds left.
Blankson, who also had 12 rebounds, was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers and 7-for-9 shooting overall in the second half.
Hunter's free throws, which followed an off-balance 3-pointer by UNM's Javin Tindall with 18.7 seconds left, were the last points of the game. New Mexico put up three 3-pointers in the final seconds in an attempt to tie, but all missed.
Troy DeVries' 3 rimmed out, and teammate Danny Granger rebounded the miss and passed it to an open Tindall at the top of the key. Tindall's 3-pointer also rimmed out, but again Granger got the rebound. With only a couple of seconds left, Granger dribbled out to behind the arc and put a 3 at the buzzer that sailed long.
Granger led New Mexico with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Tindall added 17 points and a career-high 5 steals.
New Mexico took a 64-62 lead after Rebels center J.K. Edwards fouled out with 5:56 left and the UNLV bench was assessed a technical foul for protesting the call. Tindall hit one of the two technical foul shots and Granger, who was fouled by Edwards, hit both of his free throws.
*New Mexico started the game 9-13 (69.2%) from the floor en route to a 21-14 lead at the 13:34 mark...however, the Lobos hit just 19 of their last 53 shots (35.8%)...UNM never trailed for the first 25:42 of the game, until Blassingame's three gave the Rebels a 49-48 lead at the 14:18 mark...the second half featured 7 lead changes and 5 ties
*Danny Granger and Javin Tindall combined to score the Lobos' last 16 points over the final 10:59 of the game...Granger had10 straight during a 5-minute span
*Tindall scored 17 points, had 4 assists, recorded a career-high 5 steals (all in the first half) and even had a block in his final home game...in two games against UNLV this season, he averaged 22 points, 4.5 assists and hit 13-19 (68.4%) threes
Jan. 31 in Las Vegas: The hole was just too deep for the Lobos to climb out of in the 89-80 loss. Trying to rally from a 20-point first-half deficit, UNM cut the margin to five early in the second half, then six in the closing minutes, but it was not enough despite a record-tying performance by Javin Tindall.
Tindall made nine 3-pointers (in 11 attempts and he made his first 6) to tie the UNM and Mountain West Conference record, however, it is a new school and league standard for 3s made in a conference game.
Tindall finished with 27 points to tie a career scoring high set on two other occasions, the last time earlier this year against Texas Tech. Tindall also added five assists before fouling out with 18.4 seconds left.
A first-half shooting clinic propelled the Rebels to a 50-34 lead at the break. UNLV shot 72% (18-25) from the floor in the first period, including 70% (7-10) from beyond the arc. The Rebels came into the game shooting just 31% from 3-point.
New Mexico took a 13-10 lead on Tindall's third straight 3-pointer, but the Runnin' Rebels scored from inside and out, posting runs of 16-5 and 14-2 to take a 40-22 advantage. The lead grew to 45-25 late in the first period.
The Lobos clawed back from that hole, cutting the deficit to five on two occasions early in the second half. Three straight 3s to open the second period sparked a 14-3 run as UNM trailed just 53-48.
After UNLV went back in front 80-66, UNM threatened again as Tindall nailed treys to pare the margin to six twice, the last time 86-80 with 23.5 seconds left.
The Lobos' chances were severely hampered early on due to Danny Granger's foul problems. Granger, averaging 25 points in the first four MWC games, was held to two points in 11 first-half minutes. He picked up his third foul - a charge - with 5:25 left before halftime. Granger finished with 12 points on 4 of 12 shooting.
HEAD COACH Ritchie McKay - Ritchie McKay is in his second season in charge of Lobo hoops and his eighth year as a collegiate head coach. He was named UNM's 18th head coach on March 28, 2002. McKay is the son of the late Joe McKay, who was a three-year letterman at guard for the Lobos from 1961-63.
McKay had previous stops at Portland State (1996-98), Colorado State (1998-2000) and Oregon State (2000-02). He has a career record of 107-120, 24-31 at New Mexico. McKay is 9-19 in conference games while at UNM, 9-5 at The Pit, 0-14 on the road. He is 0-8 against UNLV.
COLORADO STATE RECAP / NOTES - Colorado State got 25 points from 7-foot center Matt Nelson as the Rams knocked off New Mexico 76-66 in the final game of the regular season for both teams. The Lobos fall to 14-13 overall and they finished 5-9 in Mountain West Conference play. Colorado State improves to 12-15 and 4-10 in the league. The Rams stopped a seven-game losing streak.
New Mexico took a 17-13 lead as freshman Lenny Miles tossed down three 3s to start the game. The Rams countered with an 8-0 run for a 21-17 advantage. Two free throws by Javin Tindall and a trey by Danny Granger provided UNM with its last lead of the afternoon at 22-21.
The Lobos closed a nine-point gap to four at 61-57 with 9:02 left on a putback by freshman Justin Benson, but UNM did not make a basket the rest of the way, missing its last nine attempts.
Granger led the Lobos with 19 points and 11 rebounds. David Chiotti added 15 while Miles put in 10 in his first starting nod since Dec. 8.
New Mexico shot 33.3% (17-51) for the game and made just one field goal in the final 11 minutes. The Lobos were 7 of 20 from 3-point, but missed 10 of their last 11 after starting 6 of 9.
*Despite just 2 of 10 shooting from the floor, Danny Granger recorded his seventh double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds...Granger was 14 of 18 from the FT line...it's his second d-d in his past three games with averages of 20.7 ppg and 11.7 boards over that time...Granger's FG percentage has fallen off of late...over the past 5 games, Granger is shooting 38.8% (24-62) from the field, including 12.5% (2-16) from 3-point
* Playing an hour from his hometown of Commerce City., Colo., true freshman guard Lenny Miles made his sixth start of the season, but first since the Sacramento State game on Dec. 8...Miles responded well, scoring 10 points in 33 minutes...the 10 points is one shy of his career best set against San Francsico State in the season-opener...Miles made his first three 3s as UNM got off to a 17-13 lead...he also had three rebounds, two assists, one steal and no turnovers
* Javin Tindall had his UNM career long run of scoring in double figures end at four games...Tindall scored nine points, but was 3 of 11 from the field, including 1 of 8 from 3...it's his worst accuracy of the season with a minimum of five attempts...he came into the game having made 50% of his shots from 3-point in MWC games
* Averaging 11.6 points coming into the game, junior Troy DeVries did not score while attempting just three shots in 23 minutes...one of the nation's most accurate 3-point shooters, DeVries did not attempt a 3 for the first time in 21 games as a Lobo
* Freshman Justin Benson played just eight minutes off the bench, but scored three points and grabbed four offensive rebounds, his best boardwork since getting seven caroms against New Mexico Highlands in the second game of the season
*UNM shot 33.3% (17-51), it's third-worst performance of the season, and made just one FG in the final 11:43 of the contest...the past five games, New Mexico has shot just 38.7% (106-274) from the floor, including 35% (41-117) from 3-point
* Colorado State shot 47.6% (20-42) from the floor, meaning MWC opponents shot a torrid 48.9% against the Lobos in conference games
* The Lobos are allowing an average of 75 points the past five games