Jan. 3, 2008
Surging New Mexico (13-2) opens its ninth season of Mountain West Conference competition Saturday with a road game at Wyoming (6-6). Tipoff is 4:05 p.m. from the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. The game can be seen live nationally on CSTV with Tom Hart and Sean Farnham, plus live audio is available via All Access at golobos.com.
After a home absence of what will be 20 days, New Mexico returns to The Pit on Saturday, Jan. 12 to face San Diego State. It's Pack The Pit night with all tickets available for just $10.
Winners of six straight games, New Mexico is coming off a thrilling 86-85 overtime victory at UTEP on Wednesday. Wyoming lost at UTEP 79-73 on Dec. 22. More facts about the Lobos:
Wyoming is 6-6 on the season after getting past Chadron (Neb.) State 76-67 Monday in Laramie. The Cowboys are 4-1 at the Arena-Auditorium this season. First-year Wyoming head coach Heath Schroyer has faced New Mexico before. His Portland State team lost to the Lobos in The Pit 69-52 on Dec. 28, 2002.
The Cowboys are paced by the high-scoring guard tandem of Brandon Ewing (17.5 ppg) and Brad Jones (13.6 ppg). Ewing leads the MWC in scoring, assists (5.08) and minutes played (37.25). Although just 6-1, Jones is 1st in the league in offensive rebounds (3.18) and 3rd in total rebounds (7.5). He is also 2nd in minutes played (36.0), 4th in assists (3.91) and 12th in scoring.
As a team, Wyoming is 1st in the loop in blocked shots (5.33 a game), but last in scoring defense (72.8 ppg), scoring margin (-0.8) and turnover margin (-4.0).
Alford is 321-185 (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.
This is Alford's first game against Wyoming.
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.
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.
Wyoming was picked to finish 6th. BYU was the favorite to win the league.
UNM ALL-TIME IN THE MWC
New Mexico has a 52-64 overall record in the Mountain West Conference, 39-19 in The Pit and 13-45 on the road. UNM is 7-37 in league road games the past six seasons.
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.
Wyoming had a 7-9 record in the MWC, finishing in 6th place. BYU won the conference title with a 13-3 mark.
LOBOS IN MWC OPENERS
New Mexico has a 4-4 record in MWC openers, but it has lost four of the past five. The Lobos have a 2-6 ledger in MWC lid-lifters on the road, including six straight losses since 2002: at TCU, Utah, Air Force, Wyoming twice and Colorado State. The last win in a MWC road opener was 75-67 at San Diego State in 2001.
THE NEW MEXICO-WYOMING SERIES
It's the 115th meeting and the Pokes have a 62-52 lead. Each team won on its home floor last year, UNM 91-83 in The Pit and Wyoming 76-67 in Laramie. There were 57 fouls called and 82 free throws attempted in the game in Albuquerque.
Wyoming has taken 11 of the 16 MWC games in the series, and it has won 10 straight in Laramie. UNM's last win at the Double-A was Feb. 18, 1995, by a 62-61 count.
LAST YEAR IN LARAMIE
Brandon Ewing scored 20 points in leading Wyoming over New Mexico 76-67 in a rematch of two teams that were involved in a brawl during their first meeting in January.
A brawl broke out the last time the teams played, on Jan. 31 at New Mexico, and players from both teams were suspended for the game in Laramie: Wyoming's Brad Jones, as well as New Mexico's Jamaal Smith and Darren Prentice.
Wyoming got well ahead in the first half and New Mexico came no closer than nine points after that.
The Cowboys used an 18-4 run to go up 26-14 in the first half. The run began on a 3-pointer by Eric Platt that put the Cowboys ahead 11-10. In the final minutes of the first half, Ewing made two baskets and three free throws to give Wyoming a 37-24 lead at intermission. Early in the second half, Ewing scored another basket and two free throws for the Cowboys' widest lead of the game, 43-26.
After Ewing, Platt scored 14 points and James Spencer had 13. Ike Okoye had eight rebounds.
New Mexico was led by J.R. Giddens' 15 points. Giddens also had nine rebounds. Danridge had 13 points and Kanyinda 10 points.
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 1,277-999 (.560). New Mexico was 420-498 (.457) from 1900-62, but has gone 857-501 (.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 expected to miss three months. Danridge, a 6-5 senior from San Bernardino, Calif., posted 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. He does have a redshirt year available.
Stephon Jackson and Randy Culpepper each scored 17 for UTEP, though Jackson -- the nation's sixth-leading scorer with a 25.5-point average -- picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and sat most of the first half, scoring just two points.
It was a nailbiter most of the night until UTEP coach Tony Barbee, who got a technical foul late in the first half, was ejected after being whistled for his second technical with 3:11 remaining in overtime.
That was just enough of an opening for the Lobos, who finally delivered a knockout punch. Toppert made 1-of-2 foul shots for the technical, Jamaal Smith added two more free throws and Prentice scored on a fastbreak. Just like that, the Lobos led 76-67 with 2:30 to go, flattening the crowd of 10,973 fans.
UTEP trimmed the deficit to 82-76 with 41 seconds remaining on a bucket by Marvin Kilgore and it was 84-79 seconds later when Culpepper hit a 3-pointer, but the Miners just couldn't make up the difference. Prentice made 1 of 2 free throws with 4 seconds on the clock, just enough for the victory when Kilgore made a meaningless 3-pointer at the horn.
Both teams missed a chance to finish it in regulation. Jackson made two free throws with 1:23 remaining to put UTEP up 64-62 but Giddens tied it when he collected his own missed shot and drew a foul, making both free throws to tie it at 64-64 with 53.3 seconds to play. On UTEP's ensuing possession, Jackson missed a 20-footer and Gary came away with the ball for the Lobos.
After a New Mexico timeout, Giddens drove the right baseline and missed a floater, and Daniel Faris got the rebound but missed a putback at the regulation buzzer.
Senior J.R. Giddens
Freshman Dairese Gary
Junior Daniel Faris
Junior Chad Toppert
NON-CONFERENCE STREAK IN THE PIT
The Lobos have won 31 consecutive non-conference home games, and 47 of the past 48. the last loss was 81-64 to 5th-ranked Wake Forest on Dec. 22, 2004.
BIG-TIME DEFENSE AGAINST WEBER STATE
New Mexico side-swiped Weber State 62-32 at home on Dec. 23. The 32 points ties for the fewest by a Lobo opponent in The Pit, which opened in December of 1966. UNM beat BYU 74-32 on Feb. 3, 1997.
It also ties for the fewest points allowed by a Steve Alford-coached team during his 17-year coaching career. On March 12, 1999, Alford's Southwest Missouri State squad beat Wisconsin 43-32 in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte N.C.
It was 34-12 UNM at halftime. The 12 points are the fewest by a UNM opponent in the first half since Dec. 29, 1972, when the Lobos had a 40-9 halftime lead over Dartmouth.
HOLDING DOWN SOME OF THE BIG GUNS
New Mexico really put the clamps on the opponents' top scorers in a couple of non-conference games:
IT'S A REAL T.E.A.M.
Some pretty interesting facts about the 10-man Lobos team through the first 15 games of the season:
And, since everyone plays the Lobo bench has made huge contributions. The reserves contributed 49 points in the 86-58 win over Loyola Marymount, including 19 of the first 23 and 26 of 43 in the first half.
UNM's reserves have scored 40.8% (462 of 1,133) of the points and pulled down 39.4% (199 of 505) of the individual rebounds this season. That's averages of 30.8 points and 13.3 rebounds a game.
FREE THROWS IMPROVING
The Lobos opened the season by shooting a chilly 60.4% from the free-throw line in the first 6 games. The past 9 contests, the accuracy is 72.2% (164-227), raising the season percentage to 68.3%.
3-POINT RECORD FALLS
The Lobos' 81.8% (9-11) accuracy from 3-point against Texas Tech is a school record and it tied the Mountain West Conference record (San Diego State - Dec. 15, 2006). The previous UNM record was 72.2% (13-18) vs. San Francisco State in 2003.
TOPPERT FROM 3
Junior Chad Toppert continues to swing back and forth for the top spot as UNM's most accurate 3-point shooter. He has made 44.77% (137-306) of his tries, No. 2 on list. Troy DeVries is 1st at 44.95% (147-327).
Toppert is 2nd in the league in 3-point shooting (2.75 a game) and accuracy (47.5%) this season.
IT'S A FIRST FOR LOBO HOOPS
For the first time since the 3-point shot was introduced into college basketball before the 1986-87 season, UNM canned at least 13 3-pointers in three straight games. The historic feat came during the Basketball Travelers Invitational when the Lobos were 13 of 28 against Presbyterian, 13 of 28 against St. Bonaventure and 13 of 26 against Loyola Marymount. That's a 47.6% clip for the 3-game tournament.
3s AND COUNTING
UNM has made a 3-pointer in 563 straight games, the 12th-longest active streak in NCAA Div. I. UNLV is 1st at more than 660 games. The last time UNM failed to connect from long range was Jan. 3, 1991, missing on 8 attempts against Colorado State in The Pit.