Feb. 26, 2011
Ft. Worth, Texas --- When the New Mexico Lobos found themselves down by five points to TCU with 12:27 left, potentially their season hanging in the balance, Dairese Gary swooped in, He might as well have had an "S" on his chest and a red cape flowing from his neck. The Lobos' lone senior scored a career-high 32 points, 23 in the second half, and 20 in the final 9:33 as New Mexico ended a four-game losing streak with an 80-70 road win at TCU.
The win pushed New Mexico to 18-11 overall and 6-8 in the Mountain West as it heads to Provo for a big matchup with BYU, who defeated No. 4 San Diego State earlier in the day. The win for UNM proved even bigger when Air Force surprised Colorado State 74-57, seriously denting the NCAA at-large hopes of the Rams.
Gary has had quite a week after torching UNLV for 26 points to set a career-high that lasted all of three days. As a senior coming down to his final regular-season week, he certainly has pushed the envelope of what he can do, as he also had nine assists in the game. Certainly head coach Steve Alford knows what he has in the Indiana native.
"Well, he's just a special player," said Steve Alford after the game. "He has taken a lot of the burden, and I wish we could have gotten him some more wins this year, but he's a senior surrounded by a lot of young guys, and he is having an incredible year."
That special player started the game for his 126th consecutive start, and his 126 overall starts broke the Mountain West record, formerly held by Brandon Heath of Wyoming.
Gary was at his best in the second half, and he needed to be after UNM quickly let a 36-29 lead dissipate after a 10-0 outburst by TCU to open the half. Gary finally helped UNM get on the board when he fed A.J. Hardeman for an and-one dunk to tie the game up. Hardeman would go on to finish with a double-double after playing in front of family and friends in his home state.
However, TCU had five Horned Frogs reach double-figures, and their opening half run of 19-7 allowed the Horned Frogs to hold a 48-43 advantage with 12:27 left. Even with a Gary three-point play, it was still 50-46 Frogs when UNM turned on the afterburners.
It started with Dairese and Jamal Fenton, who rebounded a Phillip McDonald airball and found Gary, who went right back to McDonald for a three. Fenton then stole an entry pass and fed Chad Adams on a fast-break for a 51-50 lead that UNM would never relinquish. They didn't relinquish it because Dairese Gary was about to take over the game.
At the 9:33 mark he scored the first of his 20 points down the stretch, this on a driving layup. He missed the free throw, but Drew Gordon got the rebound, and eventually Fenton found Gary for another basket, making it 55-50. Amric Fields hit a three, but Fenton got the ball in and found Gary spotted up for a three, and all of a sudden it was 58-52.
TCU got two quick baskets, and Gary again had an answer, this time with another three, one of three he hit in the game. It was his 10th consecutive point and it made the score 61-55.
Later, his dish to Phillip McDonald with 5:11 left pushed the lead to double-digits, and two Gary jumpers sandwiched around a pair of Phillip McDonald free throws gave the Lobos a 73-58 lead with 2:40 to go and ended a streak where UNM hit 11 of 12 field goals over a nine minute stretch.
Gary finished off the scoring night with free throws, hitting 6-for-6 in the final minute to keep TCU at bay.
If Gary was UNM's star, the supporting cast had a lot of help. Hardeman had his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Phillip McDonald added 12 points, and Drew Gordon had 11 rebounds as UNM won the glass battle 38-29. New Mexico, which struggled over their losing streak shooting the basketball, hit .547 from the field at 29-for-53.
"We had guys knocking down shots tonight, and Dairese knocked some down, and that opened things up for other guys as well," said Alford.
For TCU, Amric Fields and Nikola Cerina each had 17 points, Hank Thorns had a double-double with 11 points and 12 assists, and Garlon Green and Greg Hill each had 10 points.