Jan. 21, 2008
Claiming its best start in nine years, New Mexico (15-4, 2-2 MWC) looks to get over the .500 mark in conference play Tuesday, playing host to Utah (10-6, 1-2 MWC). Tipoff is 7:05 p.m. from The Pit/Bob King Court in Albuquerque.
The game can be seen live on The Mtn. with Rich Cellini and Blaine Fowler, plus live audio is available via All Access at golobos.com.
At 15-4, UNM has its best record since starting 16-3 in 1998-99. That's also the last time the Lobos were 16-4 after 20 games. Additionally, Steve Alford has equaled his best start in 17 seasons as an NCAA Div. I head coach. His 2000-01 Iowa team started 15-4 on its way to a 17-4 record.
The Lobos evened their MWC record at 2-2 Saturday after shutting down Air Force 59-44. UNM held the Falcons to a season-low 27.5% shooting from the field.
Utah is 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the MWC after falling at home to BYU on Saturday, 55-52. The Utes, picked to finish 3rd in the MWC preseason poll, have lost two in a row. They have a 3-4 record away from Salt Lake City, 2-3 in true road games.
Alford is 323-187 (63%) into his 17th season. His teams have qualified for postseason play 11 times, produced 13 winning seasons and reached 20 wins on eight occasions.
Alford is facing Utah for the first time in his career.
In eight seasons at Iowa, Alford compiled a 152-106 record with a school-record seven consecutive winning seasons, and six postseason appearances. The Hawkeyes won two Big Ten Conference tournament titles (2001 and `06). Iowa was 17-14 in 2006-07. It was 9-7 in the Big Ten, tied with NCAA teams Illinois and Purdue for fourth place.
Prior to Iowa, Alford posted a 78-29 record in four seasons (1992-95) at NCAA Division III Manchester (Ind.) College and a four-year (1996-99) record of 78-48 at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). The Bears defeated Wisconsin and Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 1999 NCAA Tournament before losing to top-ranked Duke in the regional semifinals. In 1997 Alford led the Bears to a 24-9 record (second in the Missouri Valley Conference) and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament.
In somewhat of a rarity, Alford has never been anything but a head coach at the collegiate level. His first position came at Manchester at the age of 27.
NEW MEXICO-UTAH SERIES
It's game No. 120 in a series that started Jan. 3, 1952. The Utes have a 76-43 lead, although it's 6-4 in the Lobos' favor the past 10 games.
New Mexico has won the last 5 in The Pit, including 86-82 in overtime a year ago. Utah was ranked 21st in 2004 and 13th in `05.
Utah has a staggering 51-5 lead in games played in Salt Lake City and it has won 18 straight over UNM at the Huntsman Center, including 93-91 in double overtime last year. UNM last won in Salt Lake on Feb. 16, 1989 by a 79-76 count.
UNM-UTAH: LAST YEAR IN THE PIT
J.R. Giddens scored 26 points and had a then-career-high 13 rebounds and reserve Chad Toppert hit four free throws in the final 27 seconds of overtime to give the Lobos an 86-82 win.
Utah had a chance to win it in regulation but three off-balance shots in the final 13 seconds missed. Guard Johnnie Bryant, who missed the first of those three shots, led the Utes with 19 points. Shaun Green scored 14, all in the second half, including four 3-pointers.
Giddens hit 9 of 18 shots. His baseline driving lay-up with 2:44 left in overtime put New Mexico ahead for good (77-75). He hit just 6 of 13 free throws, but three of them came in the overtime.
New Mexico hit 9 3-pointers in the first half and led 40-25 after center Aaron Johnson hit a free throw and a lay-up in the first minute and a half of the second half. But the Utes used a 10-2 run to cut the New Mexico lead to 57-54 with 8:09 left. Freshman 7-2 center David Foster scored five points, Stephen Weigh hit three free throws and Curtis Eatmon scored off a steal in that stretch.
An Eatmon 3-point play in the final minute of regulation tied it at 73.
Giddens came up short on a jumper with 22 seconds left and Tony Danridge missed on a 16-footer. Utah called timeout, and Bryant drove into the lane. He was cut off and had to put off an off-balance shot that missed. Foster got the rebound and missed and the Utes got off a third shot that didn't come close at the buzzer.
LAST YEAR IN SALT LAKE CITY
After missing two free throws in the first overtime, Luke Nevill made a pair with 2.4 seconds left in the second overtime to lift Utah to a 93-91 victory.
Johnnie Bryant scored 23 points for Utah, including 13 in a row in the second half, and Shaun Green had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Lobos nearly won in the first overtime after Nevill missed two free throws with 33.7 seconds left, but Darren Prentice didn't make a long 3-pointer in the final seconds. Prentice made a game-tying jumper in the final minute of the first overtime as part of his career-high 28 points.
New Mexico made 17 of 27 3-pointers, with Chad Toppert hitting six of them on his way to 20 points. Utah made 13 of 16 free throws in the two overtimes.
UNM PREDICTED FOR 4TH-PLACE FINISH IN MOUNTAIN WEST
New Mexico and San Diego State were picked to finish in a tie fourth in the 2007-08 Mountain West Conference race during the league's preseason media gathering in Denver on October 17. Voters were a combination of head coaches and media. BYU was the favorite to win the league.
UNM ALL-TIME IN THE MWC
New Mexico has a 54-66 record in the Mountain West Conference, 40-20 in The Pit and 14-46 on the road. UNM is 8-38 in league road games since 2001.
NEW MEXICO LAST YEAR IN THE MWC
Picked to finish fifth in last year's MWC preseason poll, New Mexico finished 4-12, tying TCU for eighth - or last - place. UNM lost 12 conference games for the first time since 1959 when it finished 1-13 in the Skyline Conference.
UNM endured its fifth MWC losing record in the past seven seasons. The Lobos' only winning mark in league play since 2000 was 10-4 in 2005. UNM was 8-8 in 2005-06. New Mexico never had a losing league record from 1984-2000, a span of 17 seasons.
SEASON NO. 105
The 2007-08 season is the 105th in school history. The Lobos first laced up the hightops on Feb. 2, 1900, when they lost 8-6 to the Albuquerque Guards. While this season is actually the 106th anniversary of that inaugural year, UNM did not field a team for various reasons in 1900-01, 1903-04, 1917-18 and 1920-21.
The Lobos have been on the hardwoods continuously since the 1921-22 season and have compiled an all-time record of 1,279-1,001 (.560). New Mexico was 420-498 (.457) from 1900-62, but has gone 859-503 (.630) over the past 44-plus seasons, an average of nearly 19 wins per year.
The Lobos have made 27 trips to the postseason during that span, including 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and 16 showings in the NIT.
Lobo senior Tony Danridge suffered a broken left fibula during a game with teammates on Oct. 4. He had surgery on Oct. 8 and is likely out for the season. Danridge does have a redshirt year available. A 6-5 senior from San Bernardino, Calif., Danridge averaged 12.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season and was named 3rd team All-MWC. He was the only Lobo to play in all 95 games over the past three seasons, not missing a game to this point in his Lobo career.
AIR FORCE RECAP AND POSTGAME NOTES
J.R. Giddens scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds and New Mexico took advantage of Air Force's worst shooting of the season to beat the Falcons, 59-44, Saturday.
Giddens got his fourth double-double in the last six games as New Mexico (15-4, 2-2 MWC) equaled its win total of last season. Air Force (10-7, 2-2 MWC) never got its offense untracked and hit just 11 of 40 shots (27.5 percent).
Anwar Johnson was the only AFA player in double figures with 10 points, including 8-for-11 at the free throw line. Tim Anderson, the Falcons' leading scorer averaging 15 points a game, was held to five points.
New Mexico snapped a two-game losing streak and under first-year coach Steve Alford has won as many games as it did last year under Ritchie McKay, who was fired just before the end of the 2006-07 season.
The game's first five minutes were more reminiscent of a soccer match than a basketball game. Neither team scored through the first 4 1/2 minutes, before Giddens finally snapped the zeros-are-wild start with a layup off a steal with 14:42 left in the opening half. Before Giddens' scoop layup found the range, the teams had combined to miss 11 field goals and four free throws.
Air Force hit just 1 of its first 15 shots, a 3-pointer by reserve guard Andrew Henke at the 14:10 mark. Remarkably, that gave the Falcons their only lead as New Mexico was matching the Falcons miss-for-miss early on. At one point the two teams were a combined 4 of 26 from the field.
Air Force went nearly seven more minutes before getting its second field goal, a layup by Keith Maren with 7:18 left in the first half. By then, New Mexico's offense had started to find some flow and back-to-back 3-pointers by Darren Prentice and Chad Toppert gave the Lobos a 16-6 lead. Roman Martinez scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half and Prentice closed out the half with back-to-back drives to the basket for a 32-17 Lobos lead.
Senior J.R. Giddens
Sophomore Roman Martinez
Junior Chad Toppert
SOLID ON THE ROAD
After going 3-19 in true road games the past two seasons and being 8-43 in five years from 2003-07, UNM is a solid 4-3 this year. The Lobos actually won three in a row (at Hawai'i, UTEP, Wyoming) for the first time since 2000-01 (at New Mexico State, Gonzaga and San Diego State).
When the Lobos beat Wyoming 99-92 in double overtime on Jan. 5, they staged the largest second-half comeback in a road game in school history. UNM trailed the Cowboys 48-32 at halftime. It ranks as the 5th largest deficit overcome regardless of location. New Mexico's largest comeback was Jan. 15, 1993, at Hawai'i when it rallied from 20 points (31-11) to win 61-58.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
The Lobos began the New Year in style by doing something it had never done before: prevailing in consecutive overtime games, and on the road no less.
UNM squeaked past a fired-up UTEP squad 86-85 in overtime on Jan. 2. That was followed by a grind-it-out 99-92 double-overtime victory at Wyoming on Jan. 5, the Lobos' first win over the Cowboys at the Arena-Auditorium since 1995. New Mexico trailed Wyoming 48-32 at halftime, so it marked the largest second-half comeback on the road in program history.