Nov. 15, 2010
Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Tuesday: 8 p.m., Arizona State at Lobos
On The Air: Versus (TV); 770-AM KKOB / Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Quotes, Stats, GameTracker
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Is it the old men of the Pac-10 against The Pit babies of the Mountain West? Yeah, kind of, but are the Lobos really ever babes in the woods when it comes to running down the hard wood in The Pit?
That question will be partially answered at 8 p.m., Tuesday when an Arizona State Sun Devils' team ventures into University Arena to open their 2010-11 season. The three time-tested, returning starters have combined for 68 wins, 289 games played, 216 starts, 2,290 points and 7,524 minutes at the D-I level.
Yeah, Lobo senior Dairese Gary can almost match those numbers, but he is surrounded by a lot of youth. Lobo coach Steve Alford, looking at his youngest team ever, says he's just happy if his Lobo pups check in at the scorers' table before dashing onto the court.
The good thing about going against an ASU team with those three returning seniors/starters is that Alford's Lobos know whom to concentrate on - at least early.
Ty Abbott is the big man on the hoop court over at ASU. He was an All-Pac 10 First Team pick last year. The 6-foot-3 Abbott averaged 14.7 points and 5.7 boards last year, notching 28 points at Arizona and 29 vs. Stanford.
The Sun Devils also return 6-2 Jamelle McMillan and 6-8 Rihards Kuksiks, who are good enough to be All-Pac 10 this season. Kuksiks has bombed in 210 treys as a Sun Devil. ASU has a couple of sleepers in 6-4 Trent Lockett, a member of the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team last year, and Rusian Pateev (who is from Russia) is a sleeping giant at 7-foot.
The three Sun Devils seniors are three big reasons ASU expects to throw out a 20-win season for the fourth year in a row. As Lobo fans know, the Pac 10 features some pretty good ball. ASU is the only Pac 10 school to post 20 wins for the past three years.
Of the 73 teams in major conferences, ASU is one of six to open season with a true road game.
The toughness of the UNM schedule continues to, well, toughen up. UNM went from exhibition cupcakes to a good Detroit team to a very good ASU team. The Lobos also visit Cal-Berkeley on Saturday.
"It's a big week for a young team to play two Pac 10 schools in the same week," said Alford. "That's a really big week that is going to challenge our young team, that's for sure."
The Lobos didn't shoot all that well in their season-opening 63-54 win over Detroit, but UNM did throw out a defense that held the Titans to 30.9 percent shooting from the floor. It's tough to lose a Pit game when you get a team to brick like that.
The Sun Devils bring the same type of defensive philosophy into a game. ASU is one of nine teams to finish in the top 25 in scoring defense the past two seasons. The Sun Devils yielded 58.7 point in league and 60.5 overall.
"They are big and athletic, run a lot of motion and go with a match-up zone (on defense)," said Alford.
Said UNM's Gary: "We are going to have to work on how we're gong to penetrate their zone."
Most likely, Alford will give Gary the ball and tell his bulldog senior, "go." Gary is strong and tough on his power drives to the glass.
What UNM has to prove in 2010-11 is that Gary has the outside guns to kick off to like he had last year in Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez. UNM's Phillip McDonald is not expected to play tonight because of an elbow injury.
Both UNM and ASU are looking at a lot of first-year players and hoping to get big things out of them. The Sun Devils add seven players over three classes. The 7-foot-2 Jordan Bachynski is raw but - 7-foot-2. Freshman Corey Hawkins came to ASU as the all-time leading prep scorer in Arizona history. And 6-4 freshman Keala King was ranked No. 26 among guards by one scouting service.
"I know they are going to be jacked up," Gary said of ASU opening its season in the renovated Pit.
The Sun Devils, with 7-foot Pateev and 7-2 Bachynski, will be a good test for UNM inside. UNM's 6-11 Alex Kirk, who had a double-double vs. Detroit, said he is looking forward to the wrestling match inside.
"They are probably a lot stronger and a lot heavier than me and can push be around," he said. "You just have to bring it (intensity) every game. I think by matching their intensity, I can do what I did (vs. Detroit)."