Stevens: Lobos roll North Dakota 85-57 & Head to MW Wars on 12-Game Win Streak
Jan. 7, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: New Mexico Lobos 85, North Dakota 57
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In Laramie, a streak must die. Will it be the Wyoming Cowboys' 10-game win streak on their home court or the impressive 12-game non-conference run the Lobos finalized Saturday in The Pit with an 85-57 roll over North Dakota?
"We have 14 wins going into league play, which is unreal," said Alford of his 14-2 Lobos, who weren't that far way from being 16-0. "We have exactly one week to open this (MWC) thing.
"It's a pretty good Wyoming team. They return a lot. It's not an easy place to play and a lot of people go up there and get beat. But we have played well up there and we have played well on the road."
The Lobos also have played well in The Pit and did that Saturday vs. North Dakota -- especially in the second half. UNM broke out of a 10-point halftime lead and surged past North Dakota to post the 28-point romp.
"It wasn't the best of starts for us," said Alford. "I thought North Dakota played us toe-to-toe for a while. At the start of the game, I don't think we were as physical as we have been coming out.
"I thought we finally wore them down and our depth will do that. The second half got to them a little bit. They missed shots and we took advantage of that. To run away like we did in the second half, I'm very pleased with that."
The Lobos had 10 players in double-digit minutes of playing time and six players in double-figure scoring led by Kendall Williams with 21 points. The sensational sophomore was joined in double figures by Tony Snell (12), Demetrius Walker (12), Jamal Fenton (11), Drew Gordon (10) and Phillip McDonald (10).
"He has been playing well," Alford said of Williams. "He has been sharing the ball, but we also need him to shoot the ball. This really helps his confidence going into league play.
"I thought Demetrius Walker had some quality minutes and did some good things for us. We have a lot of guys playing well and that's encouraging going into league play."
The Lobos played a decent first half in running to a 10-point lead, but raised their level for the second half in posting their 12th straight win. UNM also did a good job holding North Dakota to under 60 on the board. UNM shot 49.1 percent from the floor and held North Dakota to 34.5 percent. North Dakota shot 32 percent in the second half as UNM upped its intensity. North Dakota got 22 points from Troy Huff and 14 from Patrick Mitchell.
The Lobos got 10 boards from Gordon, but lost that team battle 38-37. UNM won the turnovers war 19-10 and shot 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from 3-point range.
"We are on a run and playing well," said Alford. "I'm excited to get a win. The home owes us some and we took advantage of that today."
The Lobos came out of the locker room up by 10 points and finally powered away from the North Dakota. The Lobos held a 65-40 at the halfway mark of the second half. At the 11:35 break, UNM still held that 25-point lead at 65-40. The Lobos cruised to the 85-57 final.
"We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game; last game of non-conference, early game, maybe not the opponent you always get up for," said Williams.
"But I just wanted to make sure - and coaches have been emphasizing all week long - to finish strong and finish off what we've started, which is a pretty good record at 14-2 right now.
"I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive and some shots fell, so it's a good feeling."
First Half: New Mexico 41, North Dakota 31
Really, it was a good half for North Dakota, but a few foolish turnovers and the shooting of Kendall Williams left the visitors from Grand Forks in a 10-point hole. Williams banged in four 3-pointers to end the half with 15 points. UNM shot 46.9 percent in the first half to 37 percent for North Dakota.
The Lobos top two scorers - Drew Gordon and Tony Snell - only combined for seven points. UNM also got a solid bench effort from Demetrius Walker, who scored seven points in the half. UNM got outrebounded in the half, 18-17, despite getting seven boards from Gordon.
"I don't think everyone was all-the-way focused for this game," said Fenton. "Coach yelled at us and we got it together after he yelled at us. We got a little run going and after that. It was great."
UNM's Williams got off to a hot start banging in his first three 3-pointers. The third one came off a drive and feed by Fenton pushing UNM up 13-8. North Dakota got the 6-8 Mitchell isolated on the 5-9 Fenton which led to a Fenton foul. Mitchell converted the free throws to make it 15-12 in UNM's favor.
A Lobo turnover led to a North Dakota layup and at the 11:58 break the score leaned to UNM by a single point: 15-14. Snell hit a 3-pointer off the dribble - his first shot of the game and only points of the half - and UNM slipped up 18-14. McDonald knocked down a trey from the right side of the line and UNM's 21-14 lead convinced North Dakota to call a timeout.
At the 7:53 media break, the Lobos had begun to separate themselves on the scoreboard. A Williams' trey followed by a Walker stop-and-pop from 19 feet had the Lobos up 26-18 - UNM's biggest lead of the half. The Lobos were hitting some shots, but the difference also came with increased energy on the defensive side of the court.
"When you get somebody going like that, you have to get them the ball," Fenton said of Williams' hot hand. "I think he started off with four in a row. When you get somebody going like that, you have to keep giving it to them."
The Lobos continued to pull away. A Walker trey followed by a North Dakota miss followed by a Williams' layup had UNM up 31-18. The 13-point hole again had North Dakota signaling for a timeout.
At the 3:55 break, the Lobos were up by 11 - 34-23.
North Dakota used a couple of treys to cut deeper into UNM's lead. A Huff layup followed a missed dunk by Snell to cut UNM's lead to 37-31. Walker drove the baseline for UNM and touched a shot off the glass to make it 39-31. The Lobos formed the 10-point halftime lead when Gordon threw up a layup with 13 seconds to play: 41-31.