Stevens: Lobos Edge CSU Rams 66-61 To Go 4-0 in MW Race
Jan. 23, 2013
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Mountain West -- In The Pit
New Mexico Lobos 66, Colorado State Rams 61
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In sports, the finish that always matters most is on the scoreboard and the numbers flashing in The Pit - 61-61 - created exactly the ending the Lobos wanted.
The Colorado State Rams fell into a 22-point hole, rallied enough to put a scare into The Pit crowd, but could not stop New Mexico from racing to a 4-0 Mountain West record and a two-game lead over the nearest of the pack.
"We're pretty good," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "And I think we're getting better because we beat a very good basketball team tonight.
"To have a two-game lead over everybody else in the conference, we couldn't have asked for a better start. You have some room. You have some breathing room. Our guys have done a good job and we've been able to hold serve at home."
The win over CSU was huge for the obvious reasons. The Lobos still do not have a home loss and they carry a two-game lead into their next leg of the MW journey - road games at San Diego State and at Wyoming.
"It's really big," said Lobo Chad Adamsof UNM's two-game lead in the MW. "We are just trying to finish out."
The game vs. CSU appeared to be heading toward "romp" status when UNM when up 54-32 on an impossible touch off the glass by Kendall Williams. The Rams then rallied. A 12-2 CSU run made it 56-44 and CSU scratched to 59-52, but CSU had put itself into an almost impossible position.
They had to score frequently off a tough UNM defense and stop a multi-pronged Lobo attack on the other end. They couldn't do it.
"It might be a little natural when you get up that much to ease off a little bit," said UNM's Adams of CSU cutting into UNM's wide gap.
The Rams ended up shooting 36.8 percent to 36.5 percent for UNM. The Lobos had their usual edge at the free-throw line going 21-of-26 to 13-of-23 for the Rams. CSU went 6-of-21 from long range (28.6 percent) and UNM went 7-of-16 (43.8 percent). The Rams had 16 turnovers to 10 for UNM.
The Lobos leaned on defense and Tony Snelljumpers to force a 10-point halftime lead. They almost avalanched the Rams in the second half, before CSU staged a rally aided by some chilly Lobo shooting.
Snell finished with 23 points and Chad Adams had a nice stat line with 13 points, six boards, three assists and a steal. Kendall Williams and Jamal Fentoneach scored nine points. Williams added four assists and Fenton had three steals.
"I thought Jamal was really good," said Alford. "Jamal had some big plays."
CSU had three players in double figures in Wes Eikmeier with 20, Colton Iverson with 15 and Dorian Green with 14. The Rams won the glass battle 42-28. Iverson had 14 boards. "He's a load," Alford said of Iverson.
You could see why the Rams are good - or can be good - but on this night in The Pit in front of 15,411 there was no question why the Lobos are ranked No. 15/17 and no question why the Lobos are undefeated in the Mountain West wars.
They keep finding ways to win.
UNM's Alex Kirkhad a tough chore battling the nation's top rebounding team while battling a bug. "He gave us everything he could," said Alford. Kirk had three points and three boards.
"We lost some concentration," said Alford. "But we did the things we needed to do down the stretch to get the win. They (Rams) are a very gritty group. It is without question the most relentless rebounding team we have played this year. They are a very difficult team to block out and keep off the glass."
Second half: Colorado State 36, New Mexico 31
The Rams needed to steadily cut into UNM's 10-point halftime lead. At the 15:11 break, the Rams were going the wrong way as UNM took a 45-31 lead into its huddle. Snell, who had 14 points in the first half, already had a jumper, a trey and an assist on an Adams' trey.
It only got worse for the Rams and their hole only got deeper. An impossible bank shot by Williams on a drive pushed UNM up 54-32 - 22 points. At the 11:28 media break, the Lobos guarded a 54-34 lead.
The Rams then rallied. A 12-2 run made it 56-44. UNM called time at 4:51 guarding a 57-49 count. The momentum had shifted, but CSU was still down eight in The Pit. It went to ten points on a Cameron Bairstowdunk. With 3:09 to play, UNM was up 61-52 after Snell curled off a pick and hit a jumper.
The Rams actually had a chance to make the game even closer, but a couple of made treys were lost on violations. UNM held to bump its Mountain West record to 4-0.
First Half: New Mexico 35, Colorado State 25
The Lobos found a hot hand in Tony Snell, who scored 14 first-half points. UNM went 4-of-7 from 3-point range to make up for CSU's 23-15 edge on the boards. UNM shot 40 percent in the first half and held CSU to 32.3 percent shooting. UNM outscored CSU by seven at the free-throw line. Iverson had nine boards for the Rams.
"It always helps when somebody gets off to a quick start," said Alford of Snell's 14 points. "I thought he was really good."
The Rams had the lead 10-8 at the first media break at 15:51. CSU had two more field goals at that mark (2-to-4) and were up 7-2 on the glass. A Snell trey and a technical on the CSU bench made it 16-12 in UNM's favor at 12:26.
At the 11:37 break, UNM was up 16-13. CSU was still pounding the glass and held a 12-5 edge. UNM was 3-of-4 from long range and up two points at the free-throw line.
The Lobos stayed hot at long range with another Snell trey and drifted up 21-15 at the 9:00 mark. The Rams got two buckets from Wes Eikmeier to cut their gap to 23-22 at the 6:49 break. UNM was 4-of-5 from long range and CSU was up 17-8 on the glass.
At the 6:02 mark, CSU's Greg Smith picked up his third foul sending Chad Adamsto the line. The Lobo made both: 25-22. At 4:17, another Snell bucket on the baseline convinced CSU to burn a timeout, down 29-25. Snell kept shaking loose on the baseline and kept snaking in jumpers.
CSU missed on its end and UNM quickly got the ball to Snell on the edge. The Rams also quickly jumped out on the lean Lobo. Snell gave the hoop a look, drove past the Snell-obsessed defense -- and dunked: 31-25.
The Lobos stayed tough on defense and got a bucket from Adams in transition and two free throws from Williams to go up 35-25 with 42.2 to play. That score locked in to form the halftime count.