Stevens: Lobos Beat Wyoming Next Play SDSU in MW Semis
March 13, 2013
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball -At The Mountain West Tournament
Wednesday: 7:30 p.m. (MT) No. 1 seed New Mexico (27-5) 59, No. 8 Wyoming 46
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In tournament format, the goal is simple - advance, baby, advance.
The New Mexico Lobos, the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament and the No. 15th team in the nation, didn't get many points for beauty Wednesday night in the Las Vegas Thomas & Mack, but they did out-grind and out-defense Wyoming 59-46 to advance to the MW semifinals.
"In March when you win by 13 points, to me it's pretty," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford.
The Lobos went cold in the final minutes of the first half and didn't score a second-half field goal until the 9:37 mark when Cameron Bairstow muscled one in inside the paint and added a free throw to push UNM up 45-37.
"Our guys are pretty resilient. They are fighters. They are competitive," said Craig Neal, UNM's Associate Head coach. "We have a lot of fighers who refuse to lose,"
At a UNM break at 4:50, UNM was up 50-42 and had only two field goals in the second half - the second one by Jamal Fenton and that one had to dance around the rim before falling in for UNM.
The Lobos hung in this game with defense and free throws. It was almost like the Lobos knew it was not their night when it came to shooting and leaned on the defensive pride that carried them throughout the season.
The Lobos shot 40.5 percent from the floor and held Wyoming to 32 percent shooting. UNM's big edge came at the free-throw line where the Lobos went 21-of-29. Wyoming was 8-of-13 from the stripe.
The Lobos were led in scoring by Tony Snell with 15 points and Bairstow with 14 points. UNM's 7-foot Alex Kirk got into foul trouble and played only 19 minutes. He finished with seven points and four boards. The Lobos got 25 minutes off the bench from Chad Adams.
"That kid (Adams) gives us everything he has and he plays hard," said Neal. "He comes off the bench and gives us a spark."
Kendall Williams, the MW Player of the Year, made a single field goal and finished with six points and four assists. UNM had five blocks and only nine turnovers.
"What doesn't show on the stat sheet is toughness," said Alford. "Look at Kendall Williams, Player of the Year in this league, deservedly so. He has one field goal. I thought he had a very good game."
The Lobos advance to play the San Diego State Aztecs, who slipped past Boise State 73-67. On the other side of the bracket, UNLV advanced in their home gym 72-56 over Air Force and Colorado State got past Fresno State, 67-61. The Rebels and the Rams play Friday night after the UNM semifinal. The top seeds all advanced on Wednesday in the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNM's Hugh Greenwoodhad a nice stat line with five points, six boards and three steals. Bairstow added eight boards and two blocks.
Wyoming's Leonard Washington had only six points often backing in against UNM's Bairstow.
"Cam is like playing against RoboCop," said Neal. "Cam's a load and he has great feet. Cam has really been a big-time defender for us."
Wyoming's Derrious Gilmore had 14 points but appeared to tire toward the end going against the nasty UNM defense. Larry Nance Jr., had 14 points for Wyoming and Josh Adams had 12 points.
The Cowboys were forced to play Leonard much of the game despite his battle with fouls and part of that reason is the Cowboys' bench is not very productive. Wyoming got no points from its bench vs. UNM. UNM outscored Wyoming 11-4 over the final 7:46 of the game. UNM held the Cowboys to 1-of-8 from the field and and forced three Wyoming turnovers in the last 7:46.
The Thomas & Mack had a few brown spots -- Cowboy fans -- but by far the most predominate color was Lobo red. "I thought I was in The Pit," said Wyoming Coach Larry Shyatt.
Said Bairstow: "You look out, it's a sea of red out there. That really influenced the game. It really felt like a bit of a home court advantage which always helps. Every time we made a big basket, they were on their feet. I think it really helped in this game."
Said Alford: They're incredible. They're loud. Our guys come out. They're into the game. We appreciate what they do more than you could possibly imagine."
Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 25, Wyoming Cowboys 22
The Cowboys came out of the locker room down 10 and quickly cut that gap to six points. Alford burned a time out in order to wake up his Lobos. At the 15:24 mark, Wyoming was within four points at 36-32.
The Lobos got only nine minutes out of Kirk in the first half and the big Lobo played only 10 minutes in the second half.
The Lobos went cold in the final 1:38 of the first half and didn't score a field goal until the 9:37 mark of the second half when Cameron Bairstowmuscled one in inside the paint and added a free throw to push UNM up 45-37.
Wyoming's Washington also was playing in foul trouble, but Wyoming did not place their big Cowboy on the bench. Wyoming lost Washington at the 7:21 mark when he crashed into Chad Adamsafter the Lobos threw a head fake at Washington on the perimeter.
At a UNM break at 4:50, UNM was up 50-42 and had only two field goals in the second half - the second by Jamal Fentonand that one had to dance around the rim before it dropped. Obviously, the Lobos had some offensive woes to overcome, but they still held the Cowboys at bay with solid UNM defense.
The Cowboys also are known as a defensive team and pretty much held the UNM offense in check most of the second half. But the Cowboys could not convert points on their end either.
At the 3:01 mark, UNM was up 55-42 and cruised in for their 27th win. The Lobo made a few more buckets down the stretch, but the UNM defense did not let up.
"That has been who we have been all year long," Alford said of his team's defense. "I told the guys afterwards, You were just who you are, and that's been good enough throughout the non league, good enough through our league."
And so far -- one game in -- it's been good enough in Vegas.
First Half: New Mexico Lobos 34, Wyoming Cowboys 24
The Lobos started off fast, but slowed down in part because Kirk went to the bench with two fouls. Kirk played only nine minutes in the half and had four points and two boards. Snell had 11 points going 2-of-3 from long range. UNM shot 44.4 percent in the half and held Wyoming to 32 percent. UNM still won the paint battle scoring 12 inside to six for the `Pokes.
The Lobos slowly pulled away in the first half, but three 3-pointers by Gilmore kept the Cowboys reasonably close. Gilmore finished with 11 points in the half.
The Lobos went up 29-18 with 6:32 to go and Wyoming's Washington was on the bench nursing three fouls. The Cowboys decided to take a chance and Washington was inserted back into the lineup.
The Lobos eventually went into the locker room up ten points.
Coach Alford told the CBS cameras at the half that the second-half plan was to limit Nance Jr., and Washington over the final 20 minutes. Washington had two points in the first half and Nance Jr., had six points.