Stevens: Lobos Bump Boise State 76-61 to Claim MW Title
March 3, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobo.com
It was supposed to be Lobo Senior Day in The Pit, but Drew Gordon kind of stole the show. The Lobos, talented and mobile 6-foot-9 center scored 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting and added 12 rebounds to pace New Mexico to the 76-61 win over Boise State.
Oh, yeah - and also paced the Lobos to the 2012 Mountain West regular-season title.
"The league race is something that is really special," said Alford of the title his Lobos share with San Diego State. "It takes on a whole different meaning when you play everyone over two and a half months. At the tourney, it's who gets hot. The regular season is about a body of work."
The Lobos were prepared for the body-of-work honor, too. After Gordon, A.J. Hardeman and Phillip McDonald said goodbye to The Pit - 15,411 strong -- Paul Krebs, UNM' Vice President in charge of athletics, was there to award the 2012 MW regular-season trophy.
Then there were MW championship caps to don and pictures taken in front of the championship banner. It was a rewarding and deserved finish for a special Lobo team that started the league race in a hole at 1-2 and rallied to claim the program's third title in four seasons.
Now, it's on to the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas and then postseason play. Yeah, it gets tougher.
The Lobos enter the tourney in the Vegas Thomas & Mack as the No. 2 seed. The Aztecs got the No. 1 spot by sweeping TCU. SDSU blew an 18-point lead Saturday but rallied to force overtime where the Aztecs won 98-92.
The Lobos will open the MW tourney at 7 p.m. (MT) against the No. 7 seed. SDSU got 35 points and 13 rebounds from Jamaal Franklin as he and Gordon had monster games on Saturday in pacing their teams to MW crowns.
"He has gone to another level the last three weeks from a points' standpoint," said Alford of Gordon. "The last few weeks he has put up points. "I think that is going to open a lot of things on the perimeter."
Said Gordon: "I'm trying to get to the basket a little more."
The Lobo senior got to the basket a lot Saturday in The Pit and was pretty much unstoppable on the low block. It was a good thing, too. The Broncos came to play and played well until the final six minutes.
"They had a great game plan," said Alford. "They played a possession game and I think you have to do that coming in here. We played a team that shot the ball well and played us hard."
The game plan was really no surprise. The Broncos tried to control the tempo, keep the Lobos from running while using a four-guard lineup to open the court. The Lobos went to a four-guard lineup late in the second half which gave UNM a little more firepower on the edge and opened the middle for Gordon to roam.
"When we went four guards, it was hard to trap Drew inside there because now we had someone who could hit (outside) shots," said Alford.
The Lobos went into the game needing a win to grab at least a share of the 2012 crown and the Boise State Broncos did not make it easy.
A good game turned into an easy-looking 15-point UNM win, but it wasn't that easy. At the 7:15 media break, the Broncos had the lead at 52-48. Then the Lobos ran away - slowly, but steadily. With 5:20 to play, UNM was up only 56-54. UNM outscored Boise 20-7 the rest of the way in.
Gordon was joined in double figures by Hugh Greenwood, who finished strong and ended with 15 points, five boards and three assists. "It came from a guy who really wanted to win," Greenwood said of his scoring mentality.
Greenwood said he also was motivated by Senior Day and the wish to "to see them win and to see them celebrate it the right way."
Said Alford of Greenwood: "He is starting to shoot and that's what we need him to do."
The right way was with a win - a win that produced another MW ring. The win also came from a UNM team that protected the ball and possessions. The Lobos also played a clean floor game with only five turnovers in 40 minutes.
The Lobos burned Boise by shooting 54.2 percent for the game and 56.5 percent in the second half aided by Gordon's (mostly) high-percentage shots inside that produced 20 second-half points.
However, Gordon's last bucket came from the top of the key. It was icing on the scoreboard at that point (29 seconds to play) and the last points of the game.
Gordon watched his bomb go in and then back pedaled to the North end of The Pit pumping his arms at the adoring crowd. "It was an end-of-the-game type situation," said Gordon. "I wasn't going to lose the game for anybody. Coaches told me, `No' I said, `Yes.' It worked out."
UNM won the paint battle 30-24 in scoring, had 19 points off turnovers to seven points for the Broncos, and UNM had 10 fast-break points to two for BSU. The Lobos were outscored off the bench 28-15.
Second Half: New Mexico 41, Boise State 31
The Lobos extended their five-point halftime lead to 41-33 on a monster dunk by Gordon. BSU called a time out. At the 14:21 media break, a Hardeman layup had UNM up 43-35.
The Broncos used a 6-0 run to cut UNM's led to 43-41. McDonald ended that with a pretty baseline jumper: 45-41. The score went into the 11:35 media break. Gordon was still shouldering much of UNM's scoring with 16 points at that point.
Boise came out and again had a small run. A trey by Thomas Bropleh pushed BSU up 46-45 and Alford called a timeout at 10:35. The Lobos came out of their huddle and turned it over. Boise went inside to Ryan Watkins, who followed his miss and scored off the glass: 48-45.
Walker launched a long trey and formed a 48-all tie that brought The Pit to its feet. That rush didn't last long. Boise stayed poised and a jump hook by Watkins had Boise up 52-48 and Alford called another time out at 8:15. The Lobos weren't in trouble, but they needed to cut into Boise's confidence - and scoring.
At the 7:15 break, the Broncos still held that four-point lead at 52-48. UNM had the ball. The Lobos came out and worked the ball inside to Gordon. He scored off the glass and added a free throw: 52-51. Boise countered: 54-51. Greenwood cut into the gap at the line with one: 54-52 at 6:25.
The Lobos tied it up with defense. Williams pressured his man into a bad pass and Greenwood got the steal and the layup: 54-all. Boise turned it over going inside and fouled Gordon, who hit both sides of a one-and-one: 56-54. The Lobos were back on top and The Pit was helping out.
That deadly combination of Lobo defense/Pit got to Boise. The Broncos turned it over again. Williams got fouled in transition. There was a little bumping after the whistle at 5:16 - and a long talk between refs and coaches. Williams then went to the line and made two (58-54) with both teams on the sidelines. UNM also got the ball, but Gordon missed short inside.
Derrick Marks got fouled by Greenwood on a drive and made two free ones: 58-56. Snell came down and worked off a screen for a trey: 61-56. "It was a huge one," Alford said of Snell's trey. "I thought he really did a nice job defensively and he had seven assists."
The Broncos turned it over. UNM rolled Snell off another screen, but this time he kicked the ball inside to Gordon, who worked for a layup. UNM was up 63-56 and was on a 15-4 run that had UNM up 63-56. Boise called a time out. At the 3:40 media break, UNM still guarded that seven-point lead.
The teams exchanged free throws before UNM got a stop on defense that led to a long Greenwood trey at 2:18. UNM was up 68-59. If that didn't seal it, a jumper by Gordon off a Snell feed did: 70-60.
The Lobos coasted in for their 24th win and the MW title.
First Half: New Mexico 35, Boise State 30
The Broncos outshot the Lobos percentage wise most of the first half, but the Lobos closed hot to end up at 50 percent to 42.3 for Boise State. Gordon had 10 points and seven boards. Both teams took 26 shots with UNM making two more field goals and one more free throw. The Lobos had only two turnovers in the half.
The Broncos used two treys to go up 6-4. Gordon tied it with two free throws: 6-all. That count carried into the first media break at 15:47. Gordon had four points at that mark and Boise's Jeff Elorriaga had six for the Broncos.
Elorriaga hit another trey to push the Broncos to a 13-8 lead. At the 10:44 media break, BSU was up 17-10. The scenario the Broncos needed in order to pull an upset in The Pit was alive and well at that point. The Broncos were shooting 53.8 percent, controlling the tempo, and UNM was cold at 33.3 percent. The Lobos were 0-of-6 from 3-point range. The scoreboard and the tempo also were keeping The Pit crowd from being a factor.
The Pit got into it just prior to the 7:56 media break. Demetrius Walker got The Pit active with a 3-pointer that cut Boise's lead to 22-18. Adams followed that with a steal, so UNM had possession coming out of the break. UNM's shooting had warmed up to 43.8 percent, but Boise was doing OK at 52.9 percent.
The Lobos changed the tempo and the scoreboard over the next minute and a half. Williams got a steal and a layup to cut UNM's hole to 25-22. Boise turned it over and UNM worked inside to Gordon, who scored on a nifty spin move. The 25-24 count convinced the Broncos to burn a timeout.
The Pit got nastier after that. Boise missed a trey and Greenwood came down to drill one in front of the BSU bench. UNM was up 27-25. Greenwood hit another from the other baseline: 32-28 UNM. It got loud. The Lobos took that 32-28 lead into the 2:27 break. The Lobos were now outshooting Boise from the floor: 50 percent to 45.8 percent. UNM also had three Pit-pleasing treys.
The Lobos pleased The Pit again from long range. This one came with 57 seconds to go off the hand of Jamal Fenton. UNM was up 35-30. That scored held to form the halftime count.