Stevens: Add A 75-62 Win Over Nevada To Lobos' NCAA Resume
March 6, 2013
MW MEN'S TOURNAMENT TIMES/DAYS - LAS VEGAS - THOMAS & MACK CENTER (All Times Mountain
Tuesday: 6 p.m. -- No. 8 vs. No. 9
Wednesday: 1 p.m. - No. 3 vs. No. 6; 3:30 p.m. - No. 2 vs. No. 7; 7:30 p.m. -- No. 1 (Lobos) vs. No. 8-9; 10 p.m. - No. 4 vs. No. 5
Friday: 7 p.m. - Semis (1-8/9 VS. 4-5); 9:30 p.m. - Semis (3-6 vs. 2-7)
Saturday: 4 p.m. - MW Championship
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New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Mountain West - At Nevada
Wednesday: New Mexico Lobos 75, Nevada 62
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
As far as this Mountain West dance in Las Vegas, New Mexico's 75-62 roll of Nevada in Reno doesn't make their No. 1 seed any lower. There is no "zero" seed on the bracket in Vegas.
As far as the NCAA dance toward Atlanta, the win over Nevada helps mostly because it wasn't a loss. The No. 11/12 ranked Lobos (26-4, 13-2 MW) were expected to beat down the team that sits on the bottom of the Mountain West standings.
And that's exactly what the 2013 Mountain West champions did.
"We did not need to have this loss. This road win was a big key," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "It just adds to the (NCAA) resume. We just keep building this thing.
"It would have been very easy to look the other way as far as competing and these guys just refused to do that. This team continues to win. We are getting a lot of notice. We are getting national attention, national exposure.
"The brand is getting out there and people are talking about us as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and this team is not getting distracted by it."
The Lobos used a 17-0 run to break out of a 56-55 deficit into a 72-56 lead and cruised in for the road win at Nevada.
"The last ten minutes it was like the guys said, `OK, enough is enough,'" said Alford. "I thought we did a good job of wearing an opponent down."
The Lobos did their usual defensive thing down the stretch run, but UNM also had a potent inside-outside attack that Nevada had no defensive answer to. They weren't good enough on the edge to stop Tony Snell. They weren't big enough inside to deal with 7-foot Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow.
New Mexico got a Mountain West-high 25 points from Tony Snell. Bairstow muscled inside for his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. The Lobos' Twin Towers were too much for Nevada as another double-double was produced by Kirk, who had 11 points and 10 boards.
"Our bigs are terrific," said Alford. "I thought they were as dominate in the paint tonight as they have been all season. They controlled the paint at both ends. And our guards controlled things. We are taking care of the ball. We are valuing the ball and taking good shots."
The Lobos shot 50 percent from the field and held Nevada to 41.2 percent shooting. UNM got 14 points off turnovers to five for Nevada. However, the Wolf Pack didn't have too many opportunities to score off UNM miscues. The Lobos had only six turnovers.
"Outstanding. I can't say enough about this team," said Alford. "We are not turning over the ball. It's not like we are playing slower or carefully. There is just a confidence in this team."
There also is a lot of savvy talent on the edge. Snell, Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood combined for 11 assists and three turnovers. Williams also reached double figures with 10 points and he added five assists and three steals. Kirk had three blocks.
Nevada got 25 points from Malik Story, but the Wolf Pack went from the 10:53 mark of the second half to the 1:51 mark without a field goal.
"We put (Snell) on Story with about ten minutes to go and he did a phenomenal job," said Alford. "This is stuff we wouldn't have thought about a year ago. Tony's development as a defensive player has taken this team to another level.
"They (Lobos) are an outstanding defensive team and they seem to make the majority of their shots in the last eight minutes of a game."
The Lobos fell behind 24-19 with 7:16 to play in the first half and then broke out of a 29-all tie with 2:46 to play to take a 36-32 halftime lead.
The Lobos lost their 36-32 halftime lead at the 12:20 mark of the second half. UNM gave up a 9-0 Nevada run accented by a 3-pointer by Story to fall into a 50-47 deficit. UNM's Jamal Fenton hit a 3-ball to regain the lead at 51-48 and a Bairstow dunk put UNM up 53-52.
Story stayed hot from deep and hit another trey and his 19th points. Nevada was up 55-53, but Bairstow scored inside to form another tie at 55-all. Bairstow scored two more field goals to pull UNM out of a 56-55 hole into a 59-56 lead. Nevada called a time out probably trying to figure out how to control the Australian in the paint, who had scored eight straight points.
The Lobos came out of the huddle and showed their versatility inside. Kirk scored inside to make it 61-56 with 6:39 to play. A jumper by Snell at the 5:55 mark handed UNM a 64-56 cushion.
The Lobos were scoring well on offense and had slowed Story down on the other end. UNM was on a 9-0 run and Bairstow made it 10-0 with a single free throw: 65-56.
Another UNM stop led to another Snell jumper: 67-56. Nevada needed another huddle. The Lobos were pulling away riding a 12-0 run. At the 3:54 media stop, the Lobos still guarded that 67-56 score. Kirk came out of the break and added two more from the line. UNM was up 69-56.
Nevada came down and missed again. The Wolf Pack was falling apart as the Lobos once again upped their defensive intensity down the stretch. Snell probably iced the game with a soft dunk plus one more from the line. UNM's 17-0 run made it 72-56 and UNM coasted to its 26th win.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.