Nov. 30, 2008
What: Cancun Challenge at Moon Palace Resort
Saturday: Virginia Commonwealth 67, Lobos 55; Vanderbilt 72, Drake 57
Sunday: Lobos vs. Drake, 6:15 p.m. (MST); Vanderbilt vs. VCU, 8:15 p.m.
Radio: KKOB 770 AM, www.770kkob.com, Lobo Radio Network
Online: Live Audio on GoLobos.com
TV: CBS College Sports (Comcast 274, Direct TV 613, Dish Network 152)
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
CANCUN, Mexico -- In a game of runs, often the most important run is the one that comes at the game's end. In the University of New Mexico's 67-55 loss to Virginia Commonwealth Saturday night, it was VCU who put together the last run and ultimately the best run.
"It was a game of runs and we didn't have very many of them," said UNM coach Steve Alford, who saw his Lobos drop to 3-3 in the young season.
VCU opened the game with a 10-0 run and closed the game with a 26-6 run that pulled the Rams out of a 43-37 deficit and into a 63-49 lead. VCU held off the Lobos down the stretch to grab the 12-point win and advance to the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
The Lobos best, and only run, was a 15-2 dash that pulled UNM out of a 26-17 hole and into a 32-28 lead. The Lobos lead at the half, 32-31.
"This was a night when we didn't shoot the ball particularly well," said Alford. "We're not good enough defensively to score 55 points and win.
"Right now, pressure bothers us. Just look at our stats. Our two leading scorers are freshmen. We're not going to win a lot of games, if our freshmen are going to end up leading us in scoring. They're not ready for it and I can't ask that out of them."
The two Lobo pups who paced UNM in Cancun Saturday were Phillip McDonald with 14 points and Nate Garth with 12 points. Senior Daniel Faris had a solid game with 11 points and eight rebounds, but the rest of the Lobo veterans struggled at the Moon Palace Resort.
UNM's leading scorer, Tony Danridge had three more fouls (5) than he had points (2) and had no rebounds in 21 minutes of play. Junior Roman Martinez had three points and two rebounds. Senior Chad Toppert had seven points and two rebounds. Those three lettermen combined to go 4-of-20 from the floor.
Sophomore Dairese Gary scored two points and had three turnovers to go with his three assists. The Lobos shot 39.6 percent from the floor to 43.8 percent for the VCU Rams. Both teams had 16 turnovers and VCU had 32 rebounds to 31 for UNM. The Rams outscored UNM by four points from the field and eight points from the line. The attendance for the game was listed at 213.
The Lobos will play Drake at 6:15 p.m. (MST) for the consolation title while VCU will meet Vanderbilt for the Cancun Challenge title. Vanderbilt beat Drake 72-57 earlier on Saturday. "This is a team that can give us a lot of problems in a lot of way," Alford said of Drake. "We're going to have to bounce back and play better."
The key to VCU's final run seemed to be pressuring the Lobos on defense and taking the confidence out of the Lobos' offense. "We're searching for leadership," said Alford. "I wish we weren't saying that six games in, but we are. That's part of our struggles."
The Rams were paced by senior Eric Maynor, who led all scorers with 18 points. Alford's starting lineup Saturday was Martinez, Jonathan Wills, McDonald, A.J. Hardeman and Gary. After McDonald's 14 points, Alford got only nine points from his starters. Garth came off the bench to score his 12 points.
"We have a vicious schedule in front of us in December," said Alford. "So, we have to hope that through this December schedule we can get tough because we're just not a very tough team right now.
"Unfortunately, young teams struggle at being consistent. We've got to get consistent where we put two halves together at both ends."
The Lobos started the game slowly, going 0-3 from the floor with six turnovers in UNM's first nine possessions. UNM was down 10-0 before Toppert came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer at the 14:57 mark.
New Mexico trailed 26-17 with 7:40 remaining in the first half before turning up the defensive pressure. UNM held the Rams scoreless for the next five minutes and outscored VCU 15-to-5 in end the first half.
New Mexico built a six point lead 43-37 on another 3-pointer from Toppert with 14:06 left in the game. However, UNM was held scoreless for almost the next seven minutes as VCU went on a 13-to-0 run to grab a 50-43 lead with 8:44 to play. That 13-to-0 run was the front part of VCU's 26-to-6 run that sealed the win for the Rams.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner