Stevens: Lobo Fans Get To Check Out New Lobos & New Pit
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/02/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 2, 2010

Lobo Men's Basketball - Wednesday, The Pit
Who: Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds
On The Air: KKOB 770-AM; My 50-TV
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Stats, GameTracker

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

For sure, it is a Lobo exhibition game like no other. Oh, it's still not a game that officially counts and more than likely the Greyhounds from Eastern New Mexico by way of Portales are in big trouble against Steve Alford's' Lobos.

The Lobos are deep, quick, talented, tall.

But this is really the debut of the new, fantastic, modernized, super-cool Pit. It's the first chance for Lobo fans to scrunch into this $60 million facelift and do exactly what The Pit was really designed for - intimidate the heck out of a visitor.

To put this exhibition into some sort of unbelievable perspective, take this fact in: There were Lobo fans lined up outside The Pit's glassy front the day before an exhibition seeking tickets to the hottest show in town.

Quick. What's The Pit's attendance mark for an exhibition game? Will it be shattered Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when the Greyhounds try to run with the Lobos? The average attendance mark for a Pit exhibition game is 14, 837. Which is amazing.

Now, this isn't saying that the Greyhounds don't have a shot at victory in The Pit. Flashback: It was Dec. 2, 1991. Former Lobo coach Dave Bliss was walking off the court like someone told him his dog had just died. Actually, his Lobo team had just been run over by some determined and poised Greyhounds: 81-76.

It was really no fluke. The boys from Portales simply outplayed and out hustled the Lobos. It wasn't a bad UNM team either. UNM rolled to a 20-13 mark and an 11-5 Western Athletic Conference slate that year. The Lobos beat Utah, Brigham Young, San Diego State and UTEP, but could not beat the Hounds of Eastern.

UNM also played three games in the National Invitational Tournament that year.

So, do you think Alford's Lobos are worried? Well, maybe not. An exhibition game is supposed to be a romp kind of like it was in 1994 when Bliss gave the Greyhounds a rematch and UNM pounded them 110-49.

Alford is just happy to run his Lobos at someone besides other Lobos. "We are trying to get young guys to get older quicker," said Alford.

It's likely that Alford will use this game to throw out a lot of his young talent and take a closer look at them in a competitive situation. The fourth-year Lobo coach has been pushing his young players to improve their basketball IQ and often a coach gets a better look at a player's smarts when they are involved in a competitive environment.

"There is a huge difference," Alford said of practice days vs. game nights.

Wednesday's game is the third exhibition game between UNM and Eastern. UNM has a 15-1 lead in regular-season games. We have talked about that lone stain.

The Lobos are coming off a 30-5 season and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Alford is trying to find some players and some chemistry to replace the holes left by All-MWC players, Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez. Those whom cast ballots in the MWC preseason media poll noticed those holes. The Lobos, two-time MWC champions, were picked to finish third.

Alford has a lot of Lobos to chose from to replace those gaps, but there is a lot of youth on that bench.

"The obvious question is how quickly some of these guys grow up," said Alford. "This is my youngest team ever. We have four of our 13 scholarship kids who are upperclassmen: Dairese (Gary), A.J. (Hardeman), Phillip (McDonald), and Drew (transfer Drew Gordon). And Drew is new to our system."

Gordon will not play against Eastern because he has to sit out the first semester due to NCAA transfer rules.

The 5-9 Jamal Fenton and 6-3 freshman Kendall Williams will join Gary on the point. The UNM perimeter features 6-5 Phillip McDonald, 6-5 Curtis Dennis, 6-6 Chad Adams, 6-7 Tony Snell, 6-foot Chris Perez, and 6-7 Emmanuel Negedu.

The 6-9 Gordon gives the Lobos experience and explosiveness in the paint when he becomes eligible. For now, Alford is working with the 6-8 Hardeman, 6-11 Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow.

Alford also has several Lobos who can play a variety of positions. It will be interesting to see the combinations Alford throws out vs. Eastern.

UNM unveiled The Pit with an open house on Monday and about 3,000 fans showed up to take the tour. Wednesday night there might be another 12,000 or so getting their first look at one of the top sporting venues in the nation.

It also will be interesting to watch the crowd and see what Lobo fans check out more: the new Lobos or the new Pit.

Maybe that depends on what the Greyhounds are doing on the new Pit scoreboards.