Stevens: Lobos Lose To Northern Iowa 66-60 in Vegas Classic Finale
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/23/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 23, 2010

Box Score |  Notes |  Photo Gallery 

Lobo Men's Basketball - At IBN Las Vegas Classic - New Orleans Arena
Thursday's Championship:
Northern Iowa 66, Lobos 60
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The Northern Iowa Panthers made a mistake, but got away with it. They let the Lobos get into position to where Lobo senior Dairese Gary had a chance to place his team upon his broad shoulders and will New Mexico to a win.

He almost did it, scoring UNM's final eight points. The powerful senior led a furious UNM rally, flipping in an impossible jumper over double pressure and hitting a step-back jumper to pull the Lobos to 61-60 with 1:26 to play. But UNI held UNM scoreless the rest of the way to grab the IBN Las Vegas Classic title 66-60 Thursday night in the Vegas New Orleans Arena.

"We had trouble handling Gary at the end, but I imagine a lot of teams are going to have that problem," said Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson after the win.

Said Lobo coach Steve Alford: "We had to go with our starters to try and get back into the game and Dairese was worn out before the game got over." Gary played 39 of 40 minutes.

Northern Iowa went up 56-46 with 7:55 to play before the Lobos made their charge. A Gary drive followed by a free throw at 3:52 cut the UNI lead to 59-56. A key play down the stretch came with 53 seconds on the clock and UNI up 62-60.

Gary brought the ball down, went behind his back with his left hand and lost control of his dribble. UNI forced a jump-ball possession and got the ball. That turnover led to UNI's Jake Koch hitting two free throws with 18.6 seconds to play. Both his shots rattled in, but that four-point bulge proved enough to pull the Vegas title toward the Panthers.

Gary might have tossed the Lobos on his back down the stretch run, but he had a lot of help earlier from A.J. Hardeman, who had 16 points and seven boards. Freshman Kendall Williams had 11 points and three assists. Gary and Williams were named to the IBN Class All-Tournament Team. The closest Lobo to double figures after that trio was Drew Gordon with six points.

"The start of the game cost us the game," said Alford. "We didn't get the tempo where we wanted it and we didn't take good shots. To their credit, they (controlled the tempo.)."

Alford said two other keys were the free-throw line and UNM's inability to score out of transition. The Panthers made 15-of-21 from the line and the Lobos made 8-of-11. The Lobos were not credited with any transition buckets. "We ran into a team that really controlled our drive game," said Alford.

UNI got a career-high 23 points from Anthony James, who made 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Koch scored 16 points. The shooting touch was close to even as UNM shot 43.6 percent and UNI shot 44.7 percent. The Lobos (10-2) won the board battle, 33-22. UNM had 14 turnovers to 10 for Northern Iowa.

Second Half: Northern Iowa 32; Lobos 29

Hardeman opened the second 20 minutes with a tip on a follow to make it 34-33. Panther Anthony James then scored eight points for UNI to produce a 42-37 lead at 15:47. James came out of the break and hit another jumper over pressure to push UNI up 44-37.

James was still feeling it. He juked off the dribble and banged in a long jumper to push the Panthers up 46-37. Alford called time at 13:23, down nine points.

At the 11:41 break, UNI was still up nine. UNM got a trey from Williams and a short, jump hook from Gordon. UNI scored five points, too, and it was 51-42, still a nine-point Panthers' lead. At a break at the 7:55 mark, another James trey had UNI up 56-46. UNM had scored inside twice on an Adams' layup and a short Gordon post move off the glass.

The Lobos upped their energy and also started attacking the UNI middle. UNM cut the Panthers' lead to 59-56 on a Gary drive plus a free throw at 3:52. UNI's James came down and drove the baseline, but was called for a walk on pressure by Alex Kirk. The Lobos called time at 3:19, down 59-56.

The Lobos then did what the Lobos so often do down the stretch in a close game. They let their senior point guard take over. Gary flipped in a floater over pressure and hit a step-back jumper in the paint to pull UNM to 61-60 with 1:26 to play.

With 55 seconds to play, Gordon fouled out bumping James on a drive. UNI continued to struggle at the line. James made one and it was 62-60. Alford called time with the clock still showing 55 seconds.

Gary brought the ball down, went behind his back with his left hand and lost control of his dribble. UNI forced a jump-ball possession and got the ball. UNI, still up 62-60, called time with 40 seconds to play. UNI needed a bucket and UNM needed a stop.

The Lobos got the stop, but Kwadzo Ahelegbe got the rebound on his missed layup. He brought the ball out and UNM was forced to foul Koch with 18.6 seconds to play. His first shot rolled over the front of the rim, touched the back side and rolled in. His second shot rattled in. UNI was up 64-60.

UNM's Phillip McDonald heaved a long trey with 13 seconds to go and James soared high to get the rebound. He was fouled with 9.9 ticks to go, made both free shots and that completed the 66-60 win.

First Half: Northern Iowa 34, Lobos 31
Lobo Stat Leaders: Hardeman 10 pts., 5 rebs.; Williams 8 pts.; Fenton 3 assts.

Lobo coach Steve Alford gives his opinion to an official during loss to Northern Iowa.

The Lobos allowed Northern Iowa too much penetration early which was backed up by solid perimeter shooting to form a 32-19 Panther lead. UNM closed the half with a 12-2 run to pull into the 34-31 halftime count.

Both teams showed good offense early and so-so defense. Northern Iowa took a 12-9 lead into the first media break. UNM had leads of 2-0 off a Hardeman post move and 4-2 off a Williams' layup. The Panther then knocked down a couple of treys to go up 10-6. Fenton hit a 3-pointer for UNM to cut it to 10-9 and UNI hit a jumper to form that early 12-9 lead.

At the 11:53 break, UNI was still up by three points, 18-15. UNM was pushing the ball inside, but the Panthers were doing a bit more damage from the outside. The end of a 10-2 UNI run convinced Alford to call a timeout at 9:23 with his Lobos down 22-15.

Alford took a chance and put McDonald back onto the court nursing two fouls. It didn't pay off as McDonald picked up his third foul on a reach. UNI went up 24-15 before a Gary drive and an 18-footer by Kirk made it 24-19.

The Panthers drifted away a bit thanks to a trey and a long jumper that pushed them up 29-19. UNI added three points at the line to go up 32-19.

The Lobos then threw out a little run. Williams hit a trey and Hardeman scored twice inside to cut UNI's lead to 34-26. UNI called a timeout at the 3:07 mark. The Panthers obviously were trying to cool UNM's run and maintain a healthy lead going into the half.

Instead, UNM cut into that lead even deeper. A Williams' trey made it 34-29. Gary went to the line for UNM with 2.3 ticks to play and made both to form the 34-31 halftime score.

The Lobos had a board edge in the first half, 19-16. UNI had 11 bench points and UNM had seven off the pine with Fenton scoring five points. The shooting touches were close with UNM shooting 41.9 percent and UNI shooting 42.9 percent. The Panthers had one more 3-pointer to help them hold that three-point lead at intermission.

New Mexico vs. Northern Iowa Game Notes:

* New Mexico's 8-game winning streak comes to an end with the 66-60 loss to Northern Iowa. UNM falls to 10-2.
* UNM scored its fewest points of the season. The Lobos came into the game averaging 77.8 points a game.
* UNM trailed at halftime for only the second time this season. Tonight's 34-31 deficit is the largest of the season at intermission.
* The Lobos trailed 32-19, but scored the final 9 points of the 1st half to cut the halftime deficit to 34-31. UNM outscored UNI 12-2 over the final 4:13 of the 1st half.
* UNM also trailed 56-46 in the 2nd half but eventually trimmed the margin to 61-60 with a minute left.
* New Mexico was 8 of 11 from the FT line tonight. The Lobos came into the game averaging 18 FTs made and 26 FT attempts.
* The Lobos outrebounded UNI 33-28, which usually means victory...entering tonight's game, UNM had been 34-2 in its last 36 games when outrebounding its opponent.
* Senior Dairese Gary and freshman Kendall Williams were named to the Las Vegas Classic all-tournament team.