Oct. 12, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's official. The 2012-13 Lobo basketball season is here and 4,622 fans helped the New Mexico women's and men's teams kick off the year at Friday night's Lobo Howl on Bob King Court in The Pit.
Fans were treated to drills and contests by both teams, as well as a scrimmage by the men and an alternative production by the women -- an impressive rhythmic routine performed to a mix of popular tunes. The number was in lieu of an intrasquad scrimmage as last year's friendly Cherry and Silver match up was marred by a season-ending injury sustained by Sara Halasz.
"You know, Sara came to me with the idea and I hadn't seen it until tonight," Sanchez said. "I would give them an A or A+."
Halasz was all smiles during the choreographed routine on Friday night, showing plenty of enthusiasm in her steps -- that knee must be feeling good.
Prior to wowing the crowd with their synchronized dance, the Lobos ran through a number of drills, including guard and post breakdown sessions and had a three-point shooting contest. Halasz won, by the way, sinking 17 long balls in 25 attempts.
New Mexico fans caught their first look at seven first-year Lobos in Antiesha Brown, Alexa Chavez, Brea Mitchell, Bryce Owens, Jordyn Peacock, Khadijah Shumpert and Ebony Walker, and welcomed back Halasz, Caroline Durbin, Jourdan Erskine, Jayme Jackson, Whitney Johnson, Maddie Muraida, Chinyere Nnaji and Deeva Vaughn.
As always, Sanchez was quick to express her appreciation of the support of the crowd.
"Those fans make us feel like we're on top of the world," Sanchez said. "They're the best fans in the country and I think our freshman really enjoyed."
The Lobo men took to the court, with Cleveland Thomas, Devon Williams, Merv Lindsay and Nick Banyard getting their first introductions at The Pit. Returners Jamal Fenton, Kendall Williams, Tony Snell, Kory Alford (redshirt in 2011-12), Demetrius Walker, Chad Adams, Cameron Bairstow, Hugh Greenwood, Chris Perez and Alex Kirk received a warm welcome back.
Head coach Steve Alford enters his sixth season at UNM and like Sanchez, was very pleased with the number of fans on hand to share in the Lobos' opening practice.
"They always do a phenomenal job of supporting our team and our program and we're very appreciative of it," Alford said.
The men opened with five minutes of layups and dunks and jumpers and a few passing drills before moving to a fast-paced 3-on-2 full court drill. The team split into two squads and scrimmaged for over 20 minutes. The Cherry team was stacked with mostly veterans while the Silver squad featured a majority of the newcomers and a few returners. The Lobos looked hungry -- like they've been longing for the first official practice to arrive -- putting on a physical and competitive show.
"I think we took it very serious," sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood said of the scrimmage. "Yeah, it's the Howl, so it's a little more fun and we can show off a bit, but from the very first minute we were really competitive."
Cherry won, 66-37. Snell led all players with 18 points. Three other players had double figures in the scrimmage: Bairstow with 15, Walker with 13 and Banyard with 11.
While the event was mostly lighthearted, there was a moment where Alford called two timeouts in a 20-second span to talk things over with his Lobos.
"There are always teaching moments and we have to use those," Alford said. "Most of it was because of bad shots. We've taken a lot of pride in our program over the last five years in taking good shots and executing offense. Even on day one we have to start drilling that in to them because you've only got four weeks to do it before it's show time."
A three-point contest followed. The men used a slightly different format than the women, putting one minute on the clock and setting up five ball carts around the three-point line with each cart containing three balls worth one point and a money ball worth two.
Kory Alford and Kendall Williams faced off in the final round with Alford earning the title of three-point champ, tallying 15 points to nine by Williams. Alford managed to squeak by Chad Adams in the first round, hitting the money ball in a one-rack tie breaker to edge Adams, 12-11.
A dunk contest concluded the evening, with Bairstow emerging as the victor. Thomas and Williams were the other two 'Bos to make it to the final round.
The Lobo women take to the court on Tuesday, Oct. 30 hosting Northern New Mexico for an exhibition game at 7 p.m. The men will follow on Wednesday, Oct. 31 with a home exhibition game against Victory. The time for that game is to be announced.