Dec. 12, 2009
Saturday: Lobos 84, Texas A&M 81
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
When you knock off the No. 16 team in the nation away from The Pit, maybe it's not supposed to be easy, pretty or double digit.
The University of New Mexico's 84-81 stunner over Texas A&M Saturday night in Houston was a smooth ride for about 30 minutes before the game, and the Aggies, turned rock hard during the final eight minutes.
The Lobos were up 62-44 before Texas A&M made a brave run that failed in the final minutes as UNM got clutch and brave shots from several Lobos.
"I just thought we made big play after big play," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "We withstood every run they made. For as young as we are, for the things they are doing, it's pretty amazing."
The Aggies had a chance to tie the game at 80-all, but A&M`s Nathan Walkup missed two free throws and Lobo A.J. Hardeman was fouled on the rebound. The Lobo post threw down two free shots with 16.9 seconds to play and UNM got two more free shots from Roman Martinez with 9.3 seconds to go to produce the 84-81 win.
Still, A&M had cut UNM's lead to 82-81 prior to Martinez's shots and had nine seconds at the end to try and push the game into overtime. The upset pushed UNM's record to 10-0 and likely will push the undefeated Lobos into the national rankings.
"I don't talk about it much, but our guys deserve to be ranked," said Alford. "I think we should be Top 20. We are 10-and-0 with four road wins. We score 84 and shoots 51 percent against the No. 16 team in the nation. I couldn't be more pleased."
The Aggies jumped to a 2-0 lead before UNM ran to a 15-4 first-half lead. "We hit a three and never look back," said Alford. "That's pretty amazing."
The Lobos never looked back on the scoreboard, but they definitely had to look over their shoulders a time or two as a Donald Sloan-paced run had the Aggies breathing down the Lobos' neck. Sloan finished with 29 points, but also finished on the bench with five fouls.
UNM got 22 points and seven rebounds from Martinez. Darington Hobson had 18 points, Dairese Gary had 14 points and Phillip McDonald scored 10 points for UNM. The Lobos beat A&M 39-30 on the boards with Hardeman and Will Brown combining for 12 rebounds.
The Lobos got a huge bucket from freshman Jamal Fenton who drove to the glass and threw in a layup with 36 seconds to play. That put UNM up 80-75. Sloan sliced UNM's lead to 80-78 on a trey. Fenton missed two free shots with 18.7 seconds to play that led to the misses at the line by A&M's Walkup. The Lobos closed their scoring behind free throws by Hardeman and Martinez.
"We're not telling them to do stuff like that," Alford said of Fenton's drive. "Jamal is fearless. And I would have bet the bank that he wouldn't have missed both free throws. He's a fierce competitor."
The Lobos led 40-29 at the half after shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from behind the line. The Aggies outscored UNM 52-44 in the second half when A&M shot 54.8 percent. Still, UNM shot 54.2 percent in the second half.
"It was a tremendous start for us," said Alford. "At halftime, our guys had a pretty good feel that we could play with them."
If the young Lobos thought they might sneak into the Mountain West Conference wars as an underdog, a team to be overlooked, those thoughts went out the door in Houston. The undefeated Lobos appear to be a lock to be ranked come Monday.
The Lobos played good basketball in the first half and didn't come out resting on their laurels from the first 20 minutes that saw UNM run to a 40-29 lead. Martinez hit back-to-back-to-back treys which were followed by a Brown dunk that put the Lobos up 57-42.
Texas A&M called timeout, down 15 points. The Aggies' hole could have been worse but Sloan had tossed in back-to-back treys during that span.
Still, the team that looked to be ranked No. 16 in the nation was not -- at that point -- the Aggies from College Station.
The Lobos got an old-fashioned 3-point play from Hobson to go up 62-44, 18 points. Hobson hit a trey to give UNM a 65-48 (17) lead before A&M made its run.
A quick 9-2 run by Texas A&M cut UNM's lead to 67-57. The Aggies were pushing the ball towards the glass with a bit more purpose. Coach Alford called a timeout trying to shift the momentum, and the scoring, back to side of the Lobos.
The Aggies cut UNM's lead to 67-61 with 6:11 to play. Then Gary used his strength to power inside for a jumper and also a drive that produced two free throws. UNM was up by ten again, 71-61.
B.J. Holmes scored on a drive to cut UNM's lead to 72-65 and Alford called a 30-second timeout. UNM got a single free throw from Brown to make it 73-65. A&M scored inside and then Gary was called for a charge handing the ball back to A&M with 3:54 to play. UNM was up 73-67.
The Aggies still had a loose grip on momentum, but A&M had to figure out a way to stop Gary's power drives down the stretch. Instead, Gary was back at the line and hit two to push UNM up 75-67. The Lobos took a blow a few seconds later when Gary was called for his fifth foul and left the game with 3:01 to play.
Davis hit one free throw off the Gary foul, but his miss on the second shot fell into Aggie hands and Sloan hit a trey: 75-71. Hardeman got a single free throw to push UNM up 76-71 and Sloan scored on a drive to make it 76-73. A&M called time.
Lobo Nate Garth went to the line with 1:11 to play and hit two free throws to raise UNM's lead to 78-73 (5). Holmes was fouled on a drive by Fenton. The Aggie made both: 78-75. UNM`s lead was back down to three points.
Fenton drove to the glass and threw in a huge bucket for the Lobos with 36 ticks to go. UNM was up 80-75. Sloan came down with yet another trey to slice UNM's lead to 80-78.
The Aggies quickly fouled Fenton, who missed two free throws with 18.7 seconds to play. The Aggies' Nathan Walkup then bricked two and Hardeman was at the line with 16.9 seconds to play. The Lobo post made both the free ones and UNM was up 82-78.
The Aggies' Khris Middleton lined in a trey to cut UNM's lead to 82-81. A&M quickly fouled Martinez. The UNM senior dropped in both free shots to produce an 84-81 UNM lead. The Aggies threw up a desperation three at the buzzer which missed. Lobos win 84-81.