Dec. 28, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - at New Mexico State
Wednesday: New Mexico Lobos (11-2) 89, NMSU Aggies (8-5) 69
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Really, it was kind of a dirty trick that Drew Gordon threw at the New Mexico State Aggies Wednesday in Las Cruces.
He showed up.
Maybe it's more accurate to say the real Drew Gordon showed up. The Gordon the Aggies saw in Albuquerque was a ghost of the Gordon that haunted the Aggies for 23 points and 19 boards in the Pan American Center.
The Gordon that showed up in Cruces was awesome - almost unstoppable. So, were the Lobos who put an 89-69 hurting on NMSU.
Talk about a turnaround! Talk about a tale of two different teams! The transition from UNM's 62-53 loss in The Pit to UNM's 20-point roll of Aggies in Cruces was a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type story. The Lobos were both Jekyll & Hyde. So were the Aggies.
You don't lose to the Aggies by nine in The Pit and then go spank them by 20 in Cruces. Well, maybe you do. That's what happened Wednesday night in Cruces. The Lobos simply hammered the Aggies into the floor in the first half and kept on hammering.
"I'm just really pleased with our guys," said Lobo coach Steve Alford of his 11-2 Lobos. "We came in here and led pretty much start to finish and most of it was by double figures. I thought our defense was really good. Our effort was tremendous."
The plot for the second half really was written in the first half. Would the New Mexico Lobos continue to play at such a high level and could the New Mexico State Aggies stage one of the greatest comebacks in Pan American Center?
Yes and no.
The Lobos got their revenge.
Gordon was spectacular, both in the touch he showed around the basket and in the ferocity he displayed going for loose balls. "Drew was shutout (field goals) in the first game," said Alford. "When you watch a college basketball player get nearly 20/20 (points/rebounds), you're watching a very special player."
A lot of Lobos looked special this memorable night in Cruces - some for a few minutes or a few plays, some for most of the game.
Snell looked super scoring 18 points in the loss to NMSU in The Pit. He was special-plus Wednesday. He scored a career-high 24 points going 5-of-8 from behind the line and 9-of-9 at the line. Kendall Williams added 12 points and four assists. Jamal Fenton came off the bench to go 3-for-3 from long range while dishing out six assists against a single turnover.
UNM shot 45.5 percent for the game while holding NMSU to 33.3 percent shooting. The Aggies went 1-of-14 from behind the line as they quickly fell into a hole and tried to escape that ditch with the long ball.
"We wanted to defend the interior and make them shoot jump shots" said Alford. "We were not convinced they were a good jump-shooting team. A big key is we make as treys (12-of-24) and they make one.
"We took away transition and we took away the free-throw line. Those are huge parts of their offense and we took those away."
Really, the game wasn't as close as the score.
NMSU was down 21 at the half and down 25 at the 15:52 mark of the second half. UNM opened the half shooting 5-of-7 for 71.4 percent. UNM was 2-of-3 from behind the line and NMSU was 0-of-3 to extend their 0-of-6 first-half drought to 0-of-9.
The lopsided nature of this rout was emphasized at the 12:43 mark when an Aggie run forced UNM's Alford to call a timeout - up by 18 points, 60-42. UNM came out of that break, broke the NMSU press, and Gordon lofted a jump hook in for a 62-42 UNM lead.
Maybe, the Aggies were playing better, but the Lobos were "still" playing well. At the 11:48 mark, UNM was still up 62-42. The good news for NMSU was the Aggies had their first 3-pointer of the night and were now 1-of-10 from long range. UNM had outscored NMSU by 27 points from behind the line at that point.
A Kendall Williams dunk at 11:29 made it 65-42 for UNM. There would be no miracle Aggie rally on this night.
"To win nine in a row and go through the non-conference season undefeated in true road games is a tremendous start for us," said Alford. "It gives us a lot of confidence going into the conference season knowing we are going to have some very difficult road games in our league."
The Lobos play host to Saint Louis at 4 p.m., Saturday in The Pit. Saint Louis is coached by former Utah Ute, Rick Majerus.
First Half: Lobos 46, New Mexico State 25
Alford always stresses the importance of a fast and good start on road games. He got that from his Lobos in the Aggies' Pan American Center - and more. You might call this Lobo start, "brilliant." At the least, it was convincing as UNM ran to a 21-point lead behind 13 points by Tony Snell and eight points and 12 rebounds from Drew Gordon.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, the Lobos made sure that temperature applied to the NMSU shooting. The Lobos turned the tables on the Aggies by pressuring NMSU inside and out. The Aggies responded by shooting 25.8 percent from the field. The NMSU starters combined to go 8-of-26 from the floor. NMSU was 0-6 from 3-point range.
The Lobos countered by shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from long range - 8-of-11. The Aggies actually were better off when UNM was shooting the short stuff. The long stuff was hitting mostly net. Snell was 3-of-4 from behind the line and Fenton was dead-eye going 3-of-3.
This game was more than a complete turnaround from UNM's 62-53 loss to NMSU in The Pit. The Lobos didn't play badly in that game - just didn't play well. The Aggies were awful in the first half.
The Lobos controlled the game from the beginning. A Fenton trey pushed UNM up 16-9. The NMSU pressure that gave UNM fits in The Pit was still there in Cruces, but the Lobos obviously had done some growing since that loss.
Gordon was one Lobo more at ease against the NMSU big men. He put back his own miss to push UNM up 20-13. Gordon was fouled on that play, missed the free shot, but UNM controlled the board leading to a McDonald trey. That fat 23-13 UNM lead convinced NMSU to burn a timeout. The Lobos carried a 26-16 lead into the 7:11 media break.
It got better for the Lobos, worse for the Aggies. Snell came off a screen and knocked down a tough trey from the baseline: 29-16. Snell struck again. This time he came off a pick up the middle, whirled around and threw up a long bomb near the top of the key. Snell wasn't exactly square on the shot, but no matter - off the backboard for another trey. UNM was up 32-18.
The Aggies lost the ball on wild drive and UNM worked the ball at the other in - inside, out, inside and out to Fenton. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the right side. UNM took a convincing 37-19 lead into the 3:55 break. The Lobos were shooting 45.2 percent from the field at that point and NMSU was at 29.2 percent. UNM was 7-of-10 from behind the line and the Aggies were tossing up rocks - 0-for-5. UNM had nine assists to two for the home team.
The score neared the ridiculous point after Snell got open on the baseline and banged down another trey: 40-19. The Lobos had more than doubled the NMSU score. Williams made it even worse at the 3:02 mark with two free throws: 42-19. The Aggies closed to the 46-25 halftime count.