Lobos Travel to League-Leading Air Force Saturday
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/11/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 11, 2004

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The University of New Mexico begins a demanding three-game road haul Saturday by visiting league-leading Air Force. The Lobos and Falcons tip at 12 noon Mountain Time from Clune Arena at the U.S. Air Force Academy. There is no television - live or delayed - for Saturday's game.

Playing four of its final six league games of the road, UNM visits BYU and Utah next week. The final two home games are against San Diego State (Feb. 28) and UNLV (March 1).

New Mexico is 13-8 overall and 4-4 in the MWC after outscoring Wyoming, 87-75. The Lobos are tied with BYU for third place in the league. Air Force leads at 7-1 followed by Utah at 6-2. New Mexico is 11-5 after a 2-3 start.

UNM has surpassed last year's win total by three games and equaled its conference win total (4-10). New Mexico is 13-3 in The Pit this season, and has won four straight and 11 of its last 12. The Lobos were 10-7 at home last year.

New Mexico will try to end a road losing streak that has reached 22 straight games overall, 23 consecutive including neutral sites, and 15 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. New Mexico has lost three in a row at the Academy.

Air Force, 17-3 in all games, was picked to finish last in the MWC preseason poll, but sits atop the league standings with a 7-1 record. The Falcons have won 16 of 17 since a 2-2 start and currently possess an 11-game winning streak at Clune Arena. That streak started last March against the Lobos.

The Falcons are averaging 3,342 fans this season at Clune Arena, which seats 5,939. However, in four MWC games no crowd has been less than 5,763. A school-record throng of 6,359 turned out for the BYU game on Jan. 24.

Air Force is still the nation's best defensive team, allowing a scant 48.8 points a game. UNM is averaging 72.3 points in all games, 66.8 ppg in five road games.

The Lobos are shooting 38.3% from 3-point and are second to the Falcons in the MWC by averaging 8.8 treys a game. Air Force is allowing just 27.2% accuracy from beyond the arc - best in the league - and has limited its opponents to a hair more than three 3-pointers a game.

The Falcons have a turnover margin of +6.1, also tops in the MWC. They are committing just 11 TOs a game, while forcing 17.1. Air Force opponents have only 153 assists in 20 games, an average of 7.65. New Mexico is 1st in the MWC in assist average at 15.2 a game. Air Force is allowing just 20.05 points in the first half.

New Mexico has had a full roster the past 15 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 10-5 since their arrival. At 21.1 points a game, Granger would be leading the MWC in scoring had he played in the required number of games. His is averaging 9.1 rebounds. Granger has posted five double-doubles. He became the first Lobo since Kenny Thomas in 1997-98 to record four straight double-doubles.

DeVries is averaging 12.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists, including 12 dishes against Coppin State, the best total by a Lobo in 12 years. He is shooting 44% (40-90) from 3-point, an average of 2.67 treys a game.

LOBOS VS. AIR FORCE - It's game No. 53 and New Mexico has a 39-13 lead in the series, although the Falcons have won the past two and three of four. AFA goes after its first season sweep since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 1980-81. Air Force will be trying to win consecutive games over New Mexico for the first time in 42 years. The Falcons won the first four games of this series from Dec. 7, 1957 to Feb. 7, 1962.

Although Air Force has won four of the past seven games, New Mexico has still won 23 of the last 28. The Falcons took a 68-60 triumph at the Academy a year ago. The Falcons have shot 62.5% (25-40) and 61.5% (24-39), respectively, in their last two games against the Lobos.

Jan. 17 in Albuquerque: Nick Welch scored 18 points, including four straight 3-pointers in the second half, as Air Force blitzed UNM 68-42, the Falcons' first win in Albuquerque in 42 years. AFA got its first victory ever in The Pit, snapping an 0-for-22 streak in the arena built in 1966.

UNM led only once in the opening minutes of the game and had difficulty defending the Falcons' 3-point shooting and defense, which held the Lobos to a season-low point total. Danny Granger was the only Lobo in double figures with 15 points.

The 42 points are the fewest by UNM at home since a 57-39 loss to Utah in 1999 and the third-lowest total scored by the Lobos in The Pit. The 26-point margin is the 4th-worst loss in the Pit overall and the 2nd-widest in a conference game.

Last year at the USAFA: Despite a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds from Mark Walters, New Mexico was unable to stifle sharp-shooting Air Force, falling 68-60. The Falcons used a 10-0 second half run to break open a tight game, which was delayed an hour when the New Mexico team bus was held up in a traffic jam en route to the arena.

Trailing 33-32 in the second half, Joel Gerlach hit back-to-back threes to spark a 16-4 Falcon run over the next eight minutes. New Mexico was held scoreless for nearly five minutes as AFA used a 10-0 burst to build a 48-37 lead. UNM whittled the Air Force margin to five in the final minute, but was unable to close the gap completely.

Air Force shot 62 percent (24-39) from the floor. Gerlach scored 18 points to lead four Falcons in double figures, while the nation's leading-scorer, Ruben Douglas, was held to just 15 points on 4-18 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 105-115, 22-26 at New Mexico. McKay is 7-14 in conference games while at UNM, 7-4 at The Pit, 0-10 on the road. He is 5-2 against Air Force, 2-1 at the USAFA.

WYOMING RECAP / NOTES - Danny Granger scored 30 points before being knocked out of the game by a blow to the chin and New Mexico was nearly flawless at the free throw line in an 87-75 win over Wyoming. Granger matched his season high point total by hitting 9 of 13 shots, including 11 of 13 free throws. New Mexico hit 29 of 31 free throws.

Granger, who also had 30 points against Wyoming in an 82-77 win by the Cowboys in Laramie last month, was hit while trying to block a shot by Wyoming forward Joe Ries with 43 seconds left in the game.

New Mexico went up 14-0 as Wyoming failed to score on its first 10 possessions. The Cowboys missed three shots and had seven turnovers in that stretch before Mikel Watson hit a 3-pointer with 13:19 left in the first half.

Wyoming, which finished with a season-high 11 3-pointers, steadily chipped away at the deficit by hitting eight 3s in the first half. The Cowboys hit their last five shots from behind the arc in the first half, but New Mexico still managed a 40-30 halftime lead.

A field goal with 16:28 left got the Cowboys within 44-41, but that was as close as they would come. New Mexico point guard Javin Tindall hit a 3-pointer and after Cowboy David Rottinghaus was called for a charge, Lobo Alfred Neale hit a 3-pointer. The two 3s kicked off a 15-3 run by New Mexico that made it 59-44 with 12:44 left.

Wyoming cut the deficit to 61-54 with a 10-2 run, but New Mexico stayed in front with its free throw shooting. David Chiotti added 20 points and Neale had 17.

* New Mexico hit 29-31 free throws on the night for a season-high percentage of 93.5...the UNM school record for FT percentage in a game is 96.2% (25-26) versus Wyoming on Feb. 15, 1979...UNM started the game 13-13 and had hit 28-29 (96.6%) with under a minute left in the contest...Granger was the only Lobo to miss, but still connected on 11-13

* David Chiotti scored 20 points on 5-8 shooting from the field and 10-10 from the line...it marked his third 20-point outing of the season and his career-high in an MWC game

* Despite a tender ankle, Chiotti has scored 52 points the past three games (17.3 ppg), making 18-26 FGs (69%) and 16-18 FTs (89%)...he also has 19 rebounds and six assists

* Danny Granger recorded his second 30-point game as a Lobo, tying a season-high...he scored 30 at Wyoming on Jan. 12...his career-high is 37 points against Evansville (1-11-03) in his last game at Bradley University

* The Lobos led the entire game for the 12th time at home this year

* UNM forced 17 Wyoming turnovers, including 11 in the first half...the Lobos have forced a combined 31 turnovers (15.5 avg.) in their last two games after opponents averaged just 9.3 (56) giveaways in the previous 6 contests

* Wyoming shot 50% (24-48) from the floor, including 48% (11-23) from 3-point...in eight MWC games, opponents are shooting 48.4% (193-399) from the field against UNM

* The Lobos have won 15 straight games when shooting better than their opponent, including a perfect 10-0 this season...the last loss was at Tennessee on Jan. 4, 2003...UNM shot 45% (18-40), the Vols 43% (22-51)...the Lobos are 50-4 in such situations since 2000-01, 147-13 since the 1995-96 season

* New Mexico committed 11 turnovers, the fourth time in the past six games they have had 11 or less...the Lobos have just 33 miscues (8.3 a game) in their four MWC wins compared to 51 (12.8 a game) in their four conference losses

* UNM is now 11-2 in games decided by 10 points or more, 2-6 when the margin is under double figures

HOT AT HOME - The Lobos are 13-3 at home and have won 11 of their past 12. UNM is winning by an average of 12.9 points in The Pit. In 12 of the 16 home games, New Mexico has never trailed.

DISTRIBUTORS - The Lobos are 1st in the MWC in team assist average at 15.19 a game. That number is more than three assists better than last year's average of 12.11, which ranked last in the loop. The primary reason for more assists is that UNM is shooting much better than a year ago, 46.5% this season compared to 42.3% last year. The Lobos' assist-to-basket ratio is 319-499 or 64%. Last year's was 51% (339-659).

IT'S RAINING 3s - The 3-point shot is definitely part of the Lobo arsenal. Through games of Feb. 9, New Mexico is averaging 8.76 treys a game to rank 2nd in the MWC and 12th nationally out of 326 schools.

Javin Tindall is 1st in the MWC, averaging 2.62 made a game, while Alfred Neale ranks 11th at 1.57 a game. Although not in the official rankings yet, Troy DeVries is averaging a team-best 2.67 treys. More tidbits about the 3-ball proficiency:

* The Lobos set a school record for 3-point accuracy against San Francisco State, making 72.2% (13-18) of their attempts...the previous best was 70% (7-10) against Wyoming on Feb. 6, 1992...UNM made 9 of 10 treys in the second half against the Gators

* The school record for 3s in a season is 301 set in 32 games in 1997-98...at 8.8 a game, the current Lobos are on 30-game pace for 262, which would rank No. 3 for a single season

* The single-season standard for 3-pt. FGs made per game is 9.67...the 1993-94 team made 300 in 31 games...last year's Lobos rank third at 7.9 (222 made in 28 games)

* The single-season mark for highest percentage is 43.4% (157-362) set in 1988-89...only one other team has converted better than 40%, the 1997-98 squad making 40.2% (301-748)...UNM is currently at 38.3%

* The 14 3-pointers at UNLV tie for the second-highest total by a Lobo team in a road game...UNM made 16 in a 79-72 victory at UTEP on Jan. 29, 1994, and it drilled 14 at Air Force on Jan. 8, 1994, an 80-54 triumph

* UNM has made at least one 3-pointer in 417 straight games...the last time it didn't was Jan. 3, 1991, missing on 8 attempts against Colorado State...since the 3-point shot became part of college basketball in 1986-87, the Lobos have made 10 or more 81 times...UNM's record in those games is 65-16

* The Lobos' streak of 417 games ranks as the 13th-longest streak in NCAA history...UNLV is first at more than 550 games...the Runnin' Rebels had made a 3 in every game since the shot became rule in 1986-87

* The Lobos have made 10 or more nine times this season...UNM has drained 15 or more twice at home...the 1993-94 team accomplished that feat four times

* New Mexico made eight 3s before making its first 2-point basket of the game at San Diego State

* Eleven different Lobos have canned a 3-pointer this season

* UNM attempted a season-high 35 3-point attempts against San Diego, matching the third-most tries in school history...New Mexico also attempted 35 vs. New Mexico State on Dec. 13, 1996...UNM hit 15 of its attempts vs. USD, tying for eighth on the single-game list

* The Lobos hit a season-high 16 3-pointers in the win against Penn State, equaling the fourth best effort in school history...UNM last hit 16 versus Sacramento State on Dec. 19, 1998...the school record is 18 set against Holy Cross on Dec. 29, 1997