Stevens: Lobos Shock No. 11 UNLV Rebels 65-45 in Crazy Pit
Feb. 18, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: New Mexico Lobos 65, UNLV Rebels 45
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Now, it's time to throw out the juicy adjectives, the sugary superlatives, and gush about Steve Alford's Lobos all you want. They are amazing.
And the 65-45 beat down of No. 11 UNLV Saturday in The Pit was even more amazing because the Runnin' Rebels are an outstanding band of talent that was no match for the defense, the focus, and drive that the Lobos threw at them in a sold out Pit.
It was crazy and some of the stats from this romp & roll read like something from the Twilight Zone.
Which makes the Lobos the best defensive team in the Mountain West and also the league's best team with four games to go. Hey, they are atop the Mountain by two games!
"We're here and we mean business," said UNM's Drew Gordon, who embarrassed UNLV inside with 27 points and 20 rebounds.
In the race for the league title, UNM is in the driver's seat up two games over UNLV and San Diego State with four games to play. The Aztecs fell by two points at Air Force on Saturday.
In the race for the league's Player of The Year honors, there just might be a new frontrunner. Gordon not only looked like the Mountain's best player Saturday in The Pit, he looked like the league's best center and the league's best forward.
Maybe the only criticism to launch at Alford after this Pit slam dunk was why wasn't he allowing Gordon to run the point?
"He had 27 and 20 against a Top 15 team in the country," said Alford. "That's pretty special. Our guys saw that and our guys kept going to him."
Said UNLV Coach Dave Rice: "Drew Gordon proved why he is one of the best big guys in the country. He was terrific."
The win pushed UNM to 22-4 on the year and 8-2 in league play.
The Lobos also got 12 points from Tony Snell plush five assists with no turnovers in 31 minutes. Vegas had one player in double figures: Anthony Marshall with 18.
The Lobos blew open a tight game beginning at the 12:14 mark of the second half when the teams were knotted at 36-all. At the 7:23 mark, the Lobos were up 50-37 - on a 14-1 run. A key stretch in that run was a Snell 3-pointer followed by a Snell dunk that forced Rice to use a time out to quiet the Lobos and The Pit. "He got going today," said Alford of Snell.
That 30-second break by UNLV didn't do much. It didn't slow down the Lobos. It didn't quiet The Pit. There was too much good Lobo stuff to cheer about. The Rebs had 42 points with 6:30 to play and finished with 45 points.
"There is no team in the last month that has guarded the way this team has guarded," said Alford. "We really defended today."
The Lobos also were smart on offense. They got the ball into Gordon, who was being defended by a single Reb. "We wanted to get the ball inside," said Alford. "We felt we could go one-on-one in the post. It opened our offense. I thought (Drew's) post moves were outstanding tonight. He didn't make any soft moves. He went to the basket.
"The Pit really helped us. It's second to none. I don't know of a better atmosphere anywhere in the country. They really helped us get going."
The Pit got into the fun in the closing minutes. The chant "overrated" was thrown down at the beaten Rebs. "I don't think UNLV is overrated," said Alford. "I think we are underrated."
The Lobos did not crack the Top 25 last week. That was before the 10-point beat down at San Diego State and before the crunching of Rebs in The Pit. "We've been overlooked this whole year," said Gordon. "The big hype was about San Diego State and UNLV."
So, what do you think, Lobos fans? No. 21? No. 16? No. 11?
Or would Alford be happy with a major snub? "I want that chip to stay on their shoulder," said Alford.
That chip probably has been replaced by a major swagger -- and a target. This roll of No. 11 Vegas in front of a rabid Pit crowd of 15,411 was a huge boost in the arm for Lobo basketball and this team's reputation.
The atmosphere also is a plus for any team or fans which might get shipped to The Pit for the NCAA second and third rounds to be played here in March. Who wouldn't want to play ball in this gym?
Said Gordon: "Our fans were amazing. I think they (Rebels) tensed up at the end of the game."
The game was aired on CBS-TV. There were two special things beamed national: Lobos and The Pit.
"You beat a team like this by 20 on national TV and that's going to help you in a lot of areas," said Alford. "Nobody has been within 10 points of us in a seven-game stretch. That's unbelievable."
Yeah, the Lobos were unbelievable in The Pit Saturday and in a way they were very believable. This is the same Lobo team that Alford has been turning out for seven straight games.
Same-old, same-old Lobos. Now, go do the same thing up at Colorado State.
Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 39, UNLV 18
The Lobos needed a little run to separate themselves from Vegas and to get The Pit involved. It came just before an 11:19 time out by Vegas - forced by a sweet move inside by Gordon and a trey from the right side by Demetrius Walker. The Pit erupted. UNM was up 41-36. Vegas called for a quick huddle.
The Lobos had been going to Gordon much of the first nine minutes. The Rebels were not stopping him. He had scored 10 points in the first nine minutes.
Vegas came out and worked the ball inside to Brice Massamba. He walked. That brought up the 11:03 media break. UNM was shooting 43.8 percent at that point to 25 percent for UNLV. Vegas was 0-of-4 from long range. UNM had the lone bomb from Walker.
You don't want to give Alford a time out to come up with something. He will. This time it was a play that popped Snell loose near the spot where Walker had launched. Snell drained it: 44-36.
Vegas didn't convert and this time Snell scored in close: a savage dunk that brought The Pit screaming to its feet and convinced UNLV to call another time. The Lobos were up by 10 in The Pit - 46-36.
Fenton took a charge. Walker missed deep. Vegas turned it over. Gordon scored inside - again and again and again: 52-37. At the 7:23 break, Alford walked out pumping his fist. His Lobos were up by 15 and appeared on their way to blowing the No. 11 ranked Rebs out of The Pit.
Of course, there are reasons UNLV is No. 11. They came out of that huddle and hit a trey followed by a steal and a transition dunk. The 52-42 count convinced Alford to burn a time out. The Lobos were still OK on the scoreboard, but it would not be smart to allow Vegas to find some confidence or momentum.
The Lobos settled down quickly. Kendall Williams drove for a layup: 54-42. Vegas missed a couple of chances and Walker was hammers on a drive. An intentional foul was called. Walker made them both: 56-42.
The scored stayed 56-42 at the 3:59 break. The Rebs were in bad shape - down 14 in The Pit with fewer than four minutes to go. The Lobos needed to work the clock a bit, drive or give the ball to Gordon , and finish this thing at the line.
Or simply blow the Rebs out of the gym.
The Lobos chose the latter. Vegas scored no field goals and three points the rest of the way in as UNM ran to a stunning 20-point win.
"We still have a lot to do, a lot to prove," said Alford. "This race isn't over with yet."
First Half: UNLV Rebels 27, New Mexico Lobos 26 >
As promised, it was a war from the beginning. Vegas made a little run. UNM made a little run. The two teams ran up the ramp with Vegas up by a point.
Probably the key area in the first 20 minutes was when Vegas' used its length and some good defense to produce a 21-13 lead. Alford called a time out and UNM came out and ran a set play for Gordon that resulted in a dunk plus one. Gordon converted on the free throw and UNM was down 21-16 - much better.
The Rebs came down and blew a layup which led to Fenton getting fouled on a jumper. He made both shots to pull UNM to 21-18.
The Pit then went nuts - and airplane-engine loud. Snell curled open and hit a trey from the left side of the UNM offense. The noise fell down upon the Rebs like an avalanche. They turned it over on the other end and then UNM drove missed, but attacked the boards hard. Hardeman got the third put-back and UNM was back on top.
It got louder. Vegas called a time.
At the 3:15 mark, UNM was still up 23-21 and still riding a 10-0 run. At that point, UNM was shooting 33.3 percent and Vegas was at 32 percent. UNM was up on the board work 18-15.
The Rebs scratched back. Gordon missed inside under pressure by Lopez. Marshall came down and hit a 3-pointer than put UNLV up 25-23. Lopez scored underneath on a reverse: 27-24. Snell drove and threw down a monster dunk to form the halftime count of 27-26.
The Lobos ended the half shooting 30.8 percent and Vegas was at 35.7 percent. UNM was up in rebounding 20-18 and down in turnovers 9-to-8. The Rebs had four more field goals and UNM had six more free throws.
UNM was paced inside by Gordon with nine points and nine boards. Snell chipped in seven points. Moser led UNLV with eight points. Marshall had six points and seven boards.