Lobos Host Air Force In MWC Home Opener
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/14/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 14, 2004

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The New Mexico Lobos open their home conference season Saturday, hosting the upstart Air Force Falcons. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m. Mountain Time from The Pit/Bob King Court. There is no television for the game. Saturday's game begins a key homestand for UNM. Utah comes to town on Jan. 24, followed by BYU Jan. 26.

It's Pack The Pit Saturday as all remaining tickets are just $10. Tickets are available online at golobos.com, or by calling 925-5858 or (800) 905-3315. Ticket outlets include the athletics ticket office at The Pit, the ticket office at the UNM Bookstore, and Raley's and Western Wearhouse locations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho. Ticket office hours are 8:30-5 Monday through Friday. The box office opens Saturday at 4. Call (505) 925-5626 for more information.

New Mexico is 9-5 and 0-1 in the MWC after an 82-77 loss at Wyoming Monday. The Lobos have won seven of nine after a 2-3 start, including seven in a row at home. UNM's ninth win last year came in the 22nd game of the season, Feb. 17 against Colorado State in The Pit. A victory Saturday would equal New Mexico's win total from last year (10-18).

Off to its best start ever, Air Force is 10-2 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain West after slipping past Colorado State 65-57 Monday in Fort Collins. The victory was the Falcons' eighth straight and halted their 27-game MWC road losing streak. Air Force was 12-16 last year, finishing eighth in the league at 3-11.

UNM has won seven straight at The Pit, the longest home winning streak since taking seven in a row from Dec. 1, 2001-Jan. 5, 2002. The last time for eight consecutive home victories was Nov. 13-Dec. 30, 2001.

New Mexico is 22-0 against Air Force in The Pit and 23-2 all-time versus the Falcons in Albuquerque, the last loss coming at Johnson Gym on Feb. 7, 1962.

UNM has been full strength the past eight games - since Dec. 21 - when midseason transfers Troy DeVries (Portland State) and Danny Granger (Bradley) became eligible. The 6'8" Granger is averaging 21.4 points and 11 rebounds, including MVP honors in the Lobo Invitational when he had 26 points and a Mountain West Conference record eight steals against Penn State. He also had 16 rebounds against New Mexico State, the most caroms by a Lobo since the late Patrick Dennehy pulled down 17 against Alcorn State on Dec. 1, 2001. Granger is the first Lobo since Kenny Thomas in 1997-98 to record four straight double-doubles, a streak that is currently active. Thomas did so the first five games that season.

DeVries is averaging 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists, including 12 assists against Coppin State, the best total by a Lobo in 12 years. He is shooting 48% (25-52) from 3-point, an average of 3.1 treys a game.

LOBO TICKETS - Single-game tickets are available online at golobos.com, or by calling 925-5858 or (800) 905-3315. Ticket outlets include the athletics ticket office at The Pit, the ticket office at the UNM Bookstore on main campus, and Raley's and Western Wearhouse locations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Rio Rancho.

Ticket office hours at The Pit are 8:30-5 Monday through Friday. Call (505) 925-5626 for more information.

LOBOS VS. AIR FORCE - It's game No. 52 and New Mexico has a 39-12 lead in the series that started in December of 1957. The Lobos lead 23-2 in Albuquerque and have never lost to the Falcons in The Pit, posting a 22-0 record since the first game here in 1968. UNM has a 5-3 advantage in MWC games, although Air Force has taken the past three contests at the Academy. Tied at 3-3 the past six games, New Mexico has still won 23 of the past 27 overall.

The Lobos won 73-59 last year in The Pit. Similar to this year, Air Force came into the game No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 54 points a game. UNM led 37-20 at the half with Ruben Douglas getting 19 of his game-high 32 points before the break. New Mexico shot 54% (21-39) from the floor, 53% (9-17) from 3-point and committed just six turnovers. The Falcons took a 68-60 triumph at the Academy a year ago, despite 23 points and 14 rebounds - both career-highs - from Mark Walters.

STARK CONTRAST BETWEEN LOBOS, FALCONS - Air Force is the nation's best defensive team, allowing a measley 47.8 points a game. UNM is averaging 74.5 points. The Lobos are shooting 39% from 3-point and lead the MWC by averaging 9.3 treys a game. The Falcons are allowing just 25.6% accuracy from beyond the arc - best in the league - and have limited their opponents to a paltry 2.75 3-pointers a game.

Additionally, the Falcons have a turnover margin of +6.3, also tops in the MWC. They are committing just 11.5 TOs a game, while forcing 17.8. Air Force opponents have only 92 assists in 13 games, an average of 7.7. New Mexico is 1st in the MWC in assist average at 16.5 a game.

Amazingly, Air Force is allowing just 18.1 ppg in the first half.

UNM IN CONFERENCE HOME OPENERS - The Lobos have a 3-1 mark in Mountain West Conference home openers, including three straight victories. UNM is 12-1 in its last 13 conference lid-lifters in The Pit, dating to the 1990-91 season when New Mexico was part of the Western Athletic Conference.

HEAD COACH Ritchie McKay - Ritchie McKay is in his second season in charge of Lobo hoops and his eighth year as a collegiate head coach. He was named UNM's 18th head coach on March 28, 2002. McKay is the son of the late Joe McKay, who was a three-year letterman at guard for the Lobos from 1961-63.

McKay had previous stops at Portland State (1996-98), Colorado State (1998-2000) and Oregon State (2000-02). He has a career record of 102-112, 19-23 at New Mexico. McKay is 4-11 in conference games while at UNM, 4-3 at The Pit, 0-8 on the road. He is 5-1 in his career against Air Force, 1-0 in Albuquerque.

While at Mountain West Conference member Colorado State, McKay led the Colorado State Rams to the NIT in 1999.

WYOMING RECAP / NOTES - The shooting of David Adams and a 15-point second-half deficit were too much to overcome as Wyoming handed New Mexico an 82-77 loss in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams. UNM allowed its highest point total of the season.

Adams hit three 3s in the first six minutes of the second half, staking the Cowboys to a 57-42 lead. Adams made his first six 3s and finished with 24 points.

The Lobos battled back to cut the deficit to 61-57 on a 3-pointer by freshman guard Lenny Miles, who scored all eight of his points after halftime and was instrumental in the UNM comeback. The Cowboys pushed the margin back to 69-59, but a Troy DeVries 3-pointer capped a 9-2 Lobo run and trimmed the Wyoming lead to just three at 71-68 with 4:47 remaining.

Lobo junior Danny Granger canned a 3-pointer with 17.4 seconds left to make it 77-75 in the Cowboys' favor, but guard Jay Straight converted five of six free throws down the stretch to seal the win for Wyoming.

Granger had a monster game for the Lobos with a season-high 30 points and 14 rebounds. Alfred Neale added 14 for UNM.

The Lobos shot 53% (27-51) for the game, including 59% (16-27) in the second half. The Cowboys were even better, though, making 67% (10-15) of their shots after halftime and 55% (27-49) overall, tying for the best by a Lobo opponent this year. Portland also made 27 of 49 in a 77-71 win in The Pit.

New Mexico was 16 of 26 (61.5%) from the FT line - the second-worst accuracy this season - and it missed 4 of 6 in the final six minutes, including the front end of two 1-and-1 opportunities. UNM came into the game shooting 72% from the line.

* The Lobos had been 6-0 this season when shooting 50% or better from the floor, but lost despite making 53% of their attempts...the last time New Mexico shot 52% or better and lost was in last year's 85-81 overtime loss at Wyoming...UNM made 30-57 (52.6%), but the Cowboys made 52.8% (28-53)...the Pokes have shot better than 52% against the Lobos in three straight games, including 61% (33-54) last year in The Pit

* New Mexico has shot 50% or better from the field in three straight games for the first time since the 1999-2000 season (Alabama State, Washington, at Colorado State)...UNM is 84-163 (51.5%) from the floor the past three games, raising the season average to 47.4%...the last time the Lobos hit at least 50% in four consecutive games was a five-game run in 1998-99 (Northeastern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UT-Pan American, Sacramento State, McNeese State)...all those games were at home

* The Lobos lost their 20th straight road game, their 21st consecutive contest away from The Pit, including neutral sites, and their 13th MWC road game in a row...UNM also lost its seventh straight to Wyoming in Laramie...the Cowboys have won eight of the last nine in the series

* Danny Granger is the first Lobo since Kenny Thomas to record four straight double-doubles...Granger actually had his d-d with two minutes left in the first half...Thomas had double-doubles in the first five games of the 1997-98 season...Granger has 89 points and 52 rebounds during his four-game streak, averages of 22.3 ppg and 13 rpg...his 8-game season averages are now 21.4 ppg and 11.0 rpg, figures that would lead the MWC if he had played in enough games to qualify

* Granger's 30 points are the most by a Lobo this season...his previous Lobo best was 26 against Penn State...Javin Tindall had 27 points against Highlands and Texas Tech...Granger has led UNM in scoring in seven of the eight games he's played

* Freshman Lenny Miles' 8 points is his best output since he had 9 at New Mexico State on Dec. 3...all of his scoring came during a 17-7 Lobo run that pared a 15-point Wyoming lead to 61-57

* Freshman Justin Benson came off the bench to score a career-best 5 points and grab three rebounds in 12 minutes

* UNM is now 0-3 when it trails at halftime, 9-2 when it leads at the break...UNM has led at halftime in all 11 home games this season

* New Mexico allowed its most points in a first half this season as the Cowboys led 41-36 at the break....the previous high was 32 by New Mexico State in Las Cruces

* Senior guard Javin Tindall came into the game averaging 14.8 ppg...he was held to a career-low 1 point on 0-5 FGs and 0-3 from 3-point

* UNM committed a season-low 8 turnovers, but also had a season-low 8 assists

* The Lobos came into the game averaging nearly 25 3-point attempts a game, but were 7 of 15

* The first nine games, UNM allowed 59 ppg, and opponents shot 37.5% from the floor and 29.4% from 3-point...the past five games, UNM has yielded 71 ppg on 47% (125-266) shooting, 40% (41-103) from 3-point

HOT AT HOME; SEVEN AND COUNTING - The Lobos have won seven straight home games by an average of 17.8 points and have not trailed for one second during the current streak. On Dec. 8, UNM and Sacramento State were tied at 47 with 9:39 left in the game, but the Lobos went on to win 77-63. The last time New Mexico was behind at home was Dec. 6 against Texas Tech. A 3-pointer gave the Red Raiders a 59-57 lead with 2:20 remaining, a game they won 67-58.

NO SLIGHT TO DEVRIES AND GRANGER - Even though their averages and percentages warrant placement in the rankings, you won't find Troy DeVries or Danny Granger's names listed among the leaders in NCAA or Mountain West Conference statistical categories for awhile. The NCAA and MWC require a minimum of 75 percent participation in a team's games to be eligible for the rankings. Provided they don't miss any future games, the duo will be eligible after New Mexico's 24th game of the season, which is Feb. 23 at Utah. That will be DeVries and Granger's 18th game, thus meeting the required minimum of games played for inclusion in the stats.

CONSISTENCY HELPS - The Lobos have used the same starting lineup - David Chiotti, Danny Granger, Alfred Neale, Troy DeVries and Javin Tindall - for the past eight games. That quintet is 6-2. The last time UNM employed the same starters for more than eight straight games was Feb. 12-March 20, 2001, when Wayland White, Brian Smith, Marlon Parmer, Ruben Douglas and Eric Chatfield drew the nod. That group started 12 consecutive times.

Head coach Ritchie McKay has used four different starting lineups this season compared to 16 last year. Fran Fraschilla used eight combinations in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, and nine in 2001-02. The 1997-98 Lobos used the same starting five the first 25 games of the season: Clayton Shields, David Gibson, Lamont Long, Kenny Thomas and Royce Olney. That lineup was interrupted only after Olney tore his ACL at TCU in late February.

IT'S RAINING 3s - In case you missed it, the 3-point shot is definitely part of the Lobo arsenal. Through games of Jan. 12, New Mexico is averaging 9.29 treys a game to rank 1st in the MWC and 7th nationally out of 326 schools.

Javin Tindall is 1st in the MWC, averaging 2.71 made a game, while Alfred Neale ranks 9th at 1.79 a game. Although not in the official rankings yet, Troy DeVries is averaging a team-best 3.1 treys after eight games.

More tidbits about the 3-ball proficiency:

* The Lobos set a school record for 3-point accuracy against San Francisco State, making 72.2% (13-18) of their attempts...the previous best was 70% (7-10) against Wyoming on Feb. 6, 1992...UNM made 9 of 10 treys in the second half against the Gators

* The school record for 3s in a season is 301 set in 32 games in 1997-98...at 9.29 a game, the current Lobos are on 30-game pace for 278, which would rank No. 3 for a single season

* The single-season standard for 3-pt. FGs made per game is 9.67...the 1993-94 team made 300 in 31 games...last year's Lobos rank third at 7.9 (222 made in 28 games)

* The single-season mark for highest percentage is 43.4% (157-362) set in 1988-89...only one other team has converted better than 40%, the 1997-98 squad making 40.2% (301-748)...UNM is currently at 39.0%

* UNM has made at least one 3-pointer in 410 straight games...the last time it didn't was Jan. 3, 1991, missing on 8 attempts against Colorado State...since the 3-point shot became part of college basketball in 1986-87, the Lobos have made 10 or more 79 times...UNM's record in those games is 65-14

* The Lobos' streak of 410 games ranks as the 13th-longest streak in NCAA history...UNLV is first at more than 550 games...the Runnin' Rebels had made a 3 in every game since the shot became rule in 1986-87

* The Lobos have made 10 or more seven times this season...UNM has drained 15 or more twoce at home...the 1993-94 team accomplished that feat four times

* New Mexico is averaging 10 treys a game and shooting 41% in 11 home games

* Eleven different Lobos have canned a 3-pointer this season

* UNM attempted a season-high 35 3-point attempts against San Diego, matching the third-most tries in school history...New Mexico also attempted 35 vs. New Mexico State on Dec. 13, 1996...UNM hit 15 of its attempts vs. USD, tying for eighth on the single-game list

* The Lobos hit a season-high 16 3-pointers in the win against Penn State, equaling the fourth-best effort in school history...UNM last hit 16 versus Sacramento State on Dec. 19, 1998...the school record is 18 set against Holy Cross on Dec. 29, 1997

DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT - The Lobo defense has made good strides compared to last year's team:

* UNM allowed 73.2 points last year, the highest average in 16 seasons, and opponents scored 70 or more points 17 times...through 14 games this season, the Lobos have yielded a stingy 63.3 ppg and only four teams have reached 70 points

* New Mexico is 5-0 when holding opponents to less than 60 points

* Opponents are shooting 40.8% from the floor, and the Lobos have already held six opponents to less than 40% accuracy this season...they did that only five times all of last season when foes converted 47.7% of their shots, the highest percentage since the 1984-85 season (48.1%)

* New Mexico held Northwestern State to just 24.2% (15-62) shooting from the floor, the lowest by a Lobo opponent in six years when Yale shot 23.1% (12-52) in the championship game of the 1997 Lobo Invitational

DISTRIBUTORS - The Lobos lead the MWC in team assist average at 16.5 a game. That number is more than four assists better than last year's average of 12.11, which ranked last in the loop. The primary reason for more assists is that UNM is shooting much better than a year ago, 47.4% this season compared to 42.3% last year. The Lobos' assist-to-basket ratio is 231-349 or 66%. Last year's was 51% (339-659).

SEASON TRENDS / NOTES - The Lobos' victory over San Diego last was the 1,200th in school history. Since the first game was played on Feb. 2, 1900, New Mexico is is 1,201-950 in its 101st season, a winning percentage of 56 percent. New Mexico is 783-455 since the 1962-63 season, an average of almost 19 wins a year. The Lobos have been to postseason play 26 times during that span.

* UNM has outshot its opponents in all nine wins this season

* The Lobos made their last 14 FTs in the 77-63 win over Sacramento State...UNM is shooting 78% (39-50) from the FT line in the last three minutes of games this season

* New Mexico is 9-3 when scoring 60 or more points this year, 0-2 with less than 60

* Danny Granger notched a career-high and MWC record-tying 8 steals (7 in the second half) against Penn State, a total that ties for third on the UNM single-game charts...Marlow White was the most recent Lobo to get 8 or more thefts, notching 8 vs. BYU on Feb. 4, 1995...the school record is 10 by Phil Abney in 1979...New Mexico recorded a season-high 12 steals as a team

* UNM received a season-high 40 points from nine players off the bench against Northwestern State...the previous best was 32 points (five players) versus New Mexico Highlands on Nov. 24...11 players logged double digit minutes against Northwestern State

* UNM's +21 (44-23) board domination against New Mexico State is the largest margin since a 46-22 edge against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 24, 1999

* Danny Granger (5) and David Chiotti (3) have combined for eight double-doubles and the team has nine (points-rebounds)...Ruben Douglas had a team-high four last year, while UNM only had seven as a team (Mark Walters 2, Jamaal Williams 1)

* The 53-point margin of victory (95-42) against San Francisco State ties for the seventh largest in school history and ties for the fifth-widest in The Pit...it's the most points in a season opener since a 98-76 triumph over Southern Cal in 1997...it's also the fewest points allowed by UNM since a 74-32 victory over BYU on Feb. 3, 1997