UNM, Penn State Meet For Comcast Lobo Invitational Title
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/29/2003
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 29, 2003

The New Mexico Lobos look to run their winning streak to five games tonight when they play host to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the title game of the 39th Comcast Lobo Invitational. Tipoff is approximately 8:25 p.m. Mountain Time from The Pit/Bob King Court. Northwestern State and Arkansas State square off in the third place game at 6:05 p.m. UNM seeks its 27th Lobo Invitational title and seventh in the past nine years.

New Mexico head coach Ritchie McKay is also going after his 100th collegiate win this evening. McKay has a 99-110 record in his eighth season of coaching. He is 16-21 in his second year with the Lobos.

UNM is 6-3 and has won four straight - all at home - after an 87-51 pasting of Northwestern (La.) State last night. The Lobos are enjoying their longest winning streak since an eight-game run during the 2001-02 season. The 6-3 start is UNM's best in two years. The 2001-02 Lobos began 10-3.

Penn State is 5-4 and has won two in a row after dropping three straight between Dec. 6-13. The Nittany Lions, 73-61 winners over Arkansas State yesterday, could be the third Big Ten team to win the Lobo Invitational crown. Michigan State won in 1970 and '75, while Wisconsin took the title in 1984. Eight Big Ten members have combined for an 11-6 record in the Lobo Invitational.

The Lobos and Nittany Lions have met just one time previously, that coming in the third place game of the 1990 postseason NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York. Penn State won 83-81 on overtime. UNM center Luc Longley had a triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

Tonight's game marks the end of a six-game home stand, of which UNM is currently 4-1. The next game is Saturday afternoon at No. 8 Wake Forest. Tipoff is 12 noon Mountain Time. KRQE will pick up the feed and televise the game live throughout New Mexico. The Demon Deacons are 7-0 entering a Tuesday home game against North Carolina A&T. The Lobos have lost 18 straight away from Albuquerque, the program's longest drought since a 29-game skid from Jan. 10, 1957 through Dec. 29, 1959.

The new-look Lobos are now full strength with the addition of Troy DeVries and Danny Granger and the return of Mark Walters, who missed games on Dec. 21-22 due to personal reasons. DeVries and Granger became eligible Dec. 21 against Coppin State. In three games, Granger is averaging 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds, including an impressive 22 points and 16 caroms in the win over New Mexico State. That's the most rebounds by a Lobo since the late Patrick Dennehy pulled down 17 against Alcorn State on Dec. 1, 2001. DeVries is averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 assists in the three wins, including 12 assists against Coppin State, the best individual total in 12 years.

NORTHWESTERN STATE RECAP/NOTES - Danny Granger scored 16 points and New Mexico won its fourth straight game, defeating Northwestern State 87-51 in the first round of the Lobo Invitational Sunday. The Lobos New Mexico dominated from the outset, opening leads of 10-1, 23-6 and 49-24 at halftime.

The Demons shot just 24% (15-62) for the game, including 18% (6-33) in the first half. UNM made 15 of 27 FGs in each half, finishing at 56%, its second-highest percentage of the season.

A 16-0 run in the second half pushed New Mexico's lead to 66-26 with 15:20 left. Troy DeVries had a pair of 3-pointers and Mark Walters also hit from behind the arc in that run. Lobo head coach Ritchie McKay played his reserves much of the night, with Granger on the court for only 16 minutes. Ever Lobo scored and only three players saw more than 20 minutes.

* New Mexico had its second-best shooting performance of the year, hitting 55.6% (30-54) of its FGs...UNM improved to 4-0 when shooting 50% or better...Northwestern State hit just 24.2% (15-62) of its attempts, 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

* Northwestern State became the sixth Lobo opponent to shoot under 40% from the floor this year and was the fourth straight to hit less than 38%...UNM held five opponents to less than 40% shooting in all 28 games last season.

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

* New Mexico had a season-high 23 assists and had a 16-0 advantage in fast break points...the Lobos also outscored the Demons 40-14 in the paint and held a 43-37 advantage in rebounding...since the addition of forward Danny Granger to the lineup, UNM has outrebounded its opponents 127-83, an average of +15 for three games

* New Mexico held a 49-24 lead at halftime, marking the third straight game the Lobos have led by 20 or more at the end of the first half...UNM is averaging 41.7 points in the first half of its last three games, while limiting its opponents to an average of 20 points...Northwestern State hit just 2 of its first 18 shots

* The Lobos' 49 first-half points were a season high, four more than the previous best of 45 versus San Francisco State in the season opener (Nov. 22).

* Mark Walters scored a season-high 12 points off the bench...Walters had missed the past two games for personal reasons

* Javin Tindall tied a season-high with 6 assists, despite playing a career-low 16 minutes...Tindall did not hit a 3-point shot for the first time in 14 games (last year at UNLV)

* David Chiotti hit double digits in rebounds (10) for the fourth time this season...guard Ryan Ashcraft hit both of his free throw attempts, improving to 23-24 (95.8%) in his career...guard Collins Ferris matched a season-high with 8 points

* In their last three games, the Lobos have come out of the gate fast...UNM led Coppin State 26-5, New Mexico State 31-9 and Northwestern State 21-5 in the first half

* The Lobos were 7-20 from behind the 3-point line, extending their streak to 405 consecutive games hitting a three pointer...it is the 11th longest streak in Division I..the last time the Lobos failed to hit a three pointer was Jan. 3, 1991 against Colorado State

LOOKING AHEAD TO SATURDAY - Attempting to snap the school's longest road losing streak in more than 40 years will be extremely challenging Saturday as the Lobos play at undefeated and nationally-ranked Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons are 7-0 and were ranked No. 8 in last week's AP poll.

New Mexico has a 47-106 all-time record against ranked teams. That breaks down to 34-48 at home, 10-50 on the road and 3-8 on neutral floors. The Lobos won their most recent game against a ranked team, defeating No. 22 Utah 76-69 last season in The Pit.

UNM is 3-4 in its last seven games against ranked foes. Included in that total is a 70-68 triumph at No. 2 Arizona on Dec. 21, 1999, halting the Wildcats' 37-game homecourt winning streak.

This will be the third meeting between New Mexico and Wake Forest with each team winning on its home floor. UNM took a 76-71 decision at The Pit in the championship game of the 1988 Lobo Invitational. WFU won 72-65 in the second round of the 2000 postseason NIT.

The Lobos are 2-6 against current members of the ACC. They are 1-3 versus Florida State, 1-1 against Wake Forest and 0-2 against Virginia. UNM has lost three straight to ACC teams - once to Wake Forest and twice to the Cavaliers - since the win over the Demon Deacons in Albuquerque 15 years ago.

Wake Forest was 25-6 last year and won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title at 13-3. The Demon Deacons lost to Auburn 68-62 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. WFU is already 1-0 in ACC play this season, edging North Carolina 119-114 in triple overtime in Chapel Hill on Dec. 20.