Stevens: Lobos Win Lucky 13 By Corralling Cowboys 72-62
Jan. 14, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road
Saturday: New Mexico Lobos 72, Wyoming Cowboys 62
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To simplify New Mexico's 72-62 Mountain West win at Wyoming, it was formed by a long stretch of Lobo defense and a short stretch of Phillip McDonald.
It also couples with San Diego State's dramatic 69-67 win over UNLV to make the Lobos 8 p.m., tip with SDSU Wednesday in The Pit the place to be. "We'll have 15,000-plus in The Pit on Wednesday," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford after UNM's roll in Laramie.
Yeah, the Aztecs `visit will be huge. SDSU is 1-0 in the Mountain and UNM is 1-0. And then the Lobos move on to a Saturday tip at UNLV against a Rebels team that will be hot to regain some national respect by tossing down the red-hot Lobos.
New Mexico rolled to its 13th straight win Saturday at Wyoming using 17-2 run fueled by intense defensive energy and two huge treys by McDonald to push the Lobos into a 59-46 lead that the Cowboys could not crumble.
Of course, there was more to UNM's win: 18-of-22 from the free-throw line, 22 points off the bench, and 52.3 percent shooting off a solid Wyoming defense.
"It was a great win," said Alford. "It was huge for us, playing in somebody's building where they were 11-0. Wyoming plays hard and they don't beat themselves. They won't give it to you."
The Lobos got a solid first half from Kendall Williams, but this win wasn't formed by simply riding on the talents of the Lobos' front-line talent. Williams had only four points in the second half. Drew Gordon had only five boards and eight points. Tony Snell only had seven points and a single field goal.
The Cowboys did a good job "marking" the so-called UNM stars, but the Lobo talent is a pool that runs deep.
The Lobos' bench was awesome and Jamal Fenton, starting for injured Hugh Greenwood, scored 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Alford got his 22 bench points from Phillip McDonald (8), Demetrius Walker (7), Chad Adams (4) and Cameron Bairstow (3). Wyoming got four points off its bench.
"That's speaks volumes about our depth," said Alford. "We have good balance and that makes us hard to defend and hard to scout. I thought what our bench did tonight was crucial. Phillip makes those two huge treys to push it up to double figures and that was huge."
The win might prove to be a huge road breakthrough for the Lobos. The Cowboys were standing on a proud 11-0 mark in their Arena-Auditorium and the Lobos rolled out of Laramie with a 10-point win.
As Alford put it: "This (Wyoming) team is going to win some home games. To get out of here with a 10-point win, we're really happy with that. This is a tough place to win."
The Cowboys had some early stretches in both halves where they had offensive success against the Lobos. But in each half, the Lobos upped their defensive intensity to frustrate the Wyoming offense. That defensive energy also carried over to UNM's offensive game - especially in transition.
"We got some stops and got out in transition," said Alford, whose Lobos are 15-2 overall and nudging closer to a spot in the Top 25 polls. "We got out and ran. We made good decisions and attacked the basket."
Alford said another key to the game was using different tactics to frustrate the Wyoming offense that likes to use pick-and-rolls to attack inside.
"We never let them get into rhythm and they didn't get much in the post," said Alford. "We didn't let (Adam) Waddell get going. We did a good job taking their post away."
Waddell scored six points. Cowboy Leonard Washington had better success inside with 15 points. Wyoming got 22 points from guard Francisco Cruz and 11 points from guard Luke Martinez.
Wyoming shot 42.3 percent for the game, 6-of-19 from long range. UNM shot 52.3 percent and 8-of-14 from behind the line.
"We wanted to take good shots and I think we took good shots," said Alford. "We have been in that mode of taking good shots for several weeks. Everybody who played, scored. Anytime you can win 13 in a row at this level, you are doing some good things."
The Lobos didn't play Greenwood, but it might be best if all hands (and ankles) are on deck for the Aztecs' visit. SDSU went into the week ranked No. 22 and probably will jump up in the polls after decking Vegas. Alford said there is a good chance that Greenwood will be available for Wednesday's game.
The Lobos used a 17-2 run to break out of a 44-all tie and throw Wyoming into a fat 61-46 hole. UNM's McDonald came off the bench to knock down a trey that put UNM up 56-46 and then the UNM senior hammered in another bomb to push his team up 59-46. A Chad Adams' steal led to a Fenton layup to cap the UNM run at 61-46.
The pace in the second half started off quick, just like in the first half. The Cowboys quickly tied the game at 37-all, but UNM drifted up 42-37 and 44-41 off an A.J. Hardeman dunk. At the 13:54 media break, the teams were locked at 44-all.
Also like in the first half, the Lobos upped their intensity on defense and Wyoming again struggled on offense. The Lobos didn't. "I thought in the second half we did a lot of good things defensively," said Alford.
Walker scored on a drive and layup, was fouled, and made the free throw to hand UNM a 51-44 lead. Wyoming missed a dunk and Snell make the `Pokes play on the other end with a jumper that pushed UNM up 53-44. The nine-point bulge had Wyoming Coach Larry Shyatt begging for a timeout at the 7:33 mark.
It got worse for Wyoming and better for UNM. McDonald banged in back-to-back treys for UNM to push the Lobos up 56-46 and then 59-46. Fenton scored a layup off a UNM steal and the Lobos were up 61-46.
Wyoming burned another timeout at the 4:54 mark. The Cowboys were running out of time and the Lobos were playing and shooting at a high level.
Wyoming used desperation to help them throw out a little run. A Martinez steal, layup and foul shot cut UNM's lead to 63-56 with 1:27 to go. The Lobos used the free-throw line to help preserve the 10-point win.
First Half: Lobos 34, Wyoming 30
The vaunted Wyoming defense didn't slow down the Lobos much in the first 20 minutes as UNM hit at a 54.5 percent clip to help push the Lobos to their four-point lead. The Cowboys shot 40.7 percent.
The Lobos' shooting touch was the biggest edge for either team in the first half. The Lobos also shot 4-of-8 from long range. The Lobos were hurt a bit with seven turnovers to only three for the home team.
Williams went 2-of-2 from long range and ended the first half with ten points. Wyoming also got ten points from Francisco Cruz, who also knocked down two treys (2-4). Cowboy Leonard Washington had seven points. The Lobos got only seven minutes and two points out of Gordon, who went to the bench early nursing two fouls.
The early tempo wasn't anything the Lobos could complain about. Both teams got down the floor quickly and weren't shy in shooting. Wyoming jumped up 2-0 on a steal and dunk by Cruz. UNM came back with two 3-pointers, one from Fenton, one from Williams - and went up 6-4. The teams went see-saw into the first media break at 14:18 and each team had 11 points.
The Lobos lost Gordon to two fouls but managed to guard a 17-13 lead going into the 11:22 media break. Williams knocked down a trey off the dribble on the right side of the key to form that four-point UNM lead.
The first half continued to be a hard-fought struggle with both teams making plays - and not making plays. At the 7:50 break, UNM was up 19-17. The Lobos' 19th point came off Hardeman following his own miss, getting an offensive board, and muscling up a short jumper.
The Lobos came out of the break and drifted up 22-17 on a jumper by Chad Adams. Wyoming's Cruz threw in a long bomb to cut that gap to 22-20. Another Wyoming bomb, this one from Martinez on the left baseline, pushed Wyoming up 23-22. Alford called a timeout.
Alford's timeout was productive. His Lobos came out with better energy on defense and forced Wyoming into some bad shots. The Lobos did better on their end and baskets by Adams, Demetrius Walker and Hardeman pushed the Lobos up 29-23.
Wyoming got a big trey by Cruz to cut UNM's lead to 34-30 going into the break.