STEVENS: Pretty First Half Helps Lobos Run to 67-51 Win Over Riverside
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/14/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 14, 2009

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Saturday: Lobos 67, UC Riverside 51
Up Next: Lobos at New Mexico State, 7 p.m. Tuesday

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The first half was a sweet one. The second half wasn't so flavorful, but when Lobos go up by 17 in The Pit, there usually isn't much the enemy can do -- but lose. Kind of like what UC Riverside did 67-51 Saturday night in The Pit.

"I really liked the first half. That's the way we wanted to start," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "I'd take that first 20 minutes all the time. That was pretty."

The ending was pretty, too, but if the Lobos had continued to play in the second half like they had in the first half, this might have been a 30-point win. Still, it was statistically satisfying for Alford, especially the 21 assists that were offset by only four turnovers.

"You only turn the ball over four times and it's hard to get ran on," said Alford. "We also held a team to 32 (32.7) percent shooting. I was pleased with our defense. I thought we did a good job with transition defense. We did a good job getting back."

Riverside worked hard to climb out of its 39-22 halftime hole. The Highlanders beat the Lobos by a single point in the second half -- 29-to-28. But Alford was playing around with his bench more and trying out various combinations.

Any combination that featured A.J. Hardeman, Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez looked pretty good. These three Lobos had killer lines.

Martinez had 18 points and four steals and defended Riversides' top scorer, Kyle Austin. The talented Highlander had only eight points going 3-of-12 from the floor. Hardeman had 14 points, six rebounds, three blocks and a steal. Hobson had 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists, one block and one steal.

"He has a tremendous basketball IQ," Alford said of Hobson, a JC transfer. "He has to continue to work hard in practice so he plays at a high level all the time."

What Alford is suggesting is that very soon Hobson's all-around talent will make him a marked Lobo. Kind of like Martinez, who Alford placed on Austin.

"I don't think they were going to beat us without Austin having a big night," said Alford. "And that's Ro (Roman). We know what we are going to get out of Ro."

The Lobos won this game in the first half and their 3-point shooting was a huge factor. UNM went 6-of-13 in the first 20 minutes, but put together several long bombs to stage a run that put the Highlanders away.

UNM cooled off in the second half and finished 8-of-22 from long range. The Lobos shot 51.6 percent from the field in the first half and 38.7 percent in the second half to finish at 45.2 percent.

Riverside won the board battle 43-to-33. UNM had nine steals to two steals for Riverside. The Lobos' next game is Tuesday at New Mexico State.

"We know we have to get better," said Alford. "We have a lot of work to do."

Hardeman and Will Brown have to handle the bulk of the responsibilities inside and Saturday's win showed good things from the post. However, Riverside is not exactly loaded -- or tall -- inside.

Still, Hardman and Brown combined for 18 points and 10 rebounds and that's good production from that spot. The 6-7 Hobson plays on the wing, but also is called upon to help inside. He looked as smooth as UNM's first half.

"I just told myself I was going to have fun and enjoy it," Hobson said of his first official game in The Pit. "I was really comfortable tonight and didn't feel like there was any pressure on me."

The Lobos' 17-point halftime lead was stretched to 46-25 on a Martinez trey followed by a Hobson drive and score. The Lobos were never challenged by Riverside in the second half, but UNM couldn't pull away.

When Jamal Fenton slipped loose for a layup, the Lobos went up 58-35. Riverside called a timeout with 9:19 to play.

At the 7:46 media break, the Lobos were up 58-39. The Highlanders weren't letting the Lobos run away, but Riverside couldn't catch up either.

At a 6:15 break, UNM was up 18 points, 60-42. The highlight leading into that huddle was a sweet pass from Hobson to Martinez that ended in a layup.

When Martinez threw in another long trey to produce a 67-46 UNM cushion, Alford called a quick timeout at the 2:02 mark. The UNM coach took out all his starters and let his Lobos coast to the 67-51 finale.

First Half

UC Riverside jumped up 4-1 before Martinez banged in a long trey to knot it at 4-all.. UNM took an 8-6 lead into the first media break at 15:42 when a nifty pass from Hobson found Hardeman underneath.

Hobson struck from deep to raise UNM to 11-8. Martinez, working as a trailer, popped in another 3-point bomb to push UNM up 14-8. When Curtis Dennis threw in another long 3-point bomb to push UNM up 19-10, Riverside called time.

UNM went up 22-12 on a Hobson bomb. Fenton got in the long-range assault of the Riverside defense and UNM went into the 10:02 media break sitting on a 25-12 lead.The Lobos were 6-of-10 from behing the line at that point.

The Pit liked all this, but really exploded when Nate Garth lofted an alley-oop pass to Hardeman, who threw down a dunk over his head. Fenton took UNM into the 7:07 break with a 31-14 lead, scoring on a layup

A couple of Martinez baskets from underneath pushed UNM up 35-17 going into the 3:48 break. UNM was up 18 and on a roll. UNM was firing 53 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from behind the line. Riverside was gunning at a 33.3 clip. Martinez had 10 points with Hardeman and Hobson with six each.

Riverside needed to cut into that gap a little bit, build some Highlanders' confidence and steal a little momentum going into the half. They made a tiny cut and UNM went into the break up 39-22 (17).

Hobson got loose twice under the glass to match Martinez's ten halftime points. The Lobos shot 51.6 percent from the floor and the Highlanders took a 31.8 percent into the break. Hobson, Dairese Gary and Garth each had three assists in the first half. UNM had six steals to one steal for Riverside.