Stevens: Lobos Roll 49ers 75-68 & Move On To Play Louisville
March 15, 2012
New Mexico Lobos - NCAA West Region - Portland, Oregon
Thursday: New Mexico 75, Long Beach State 68
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
OK, let's see if President Obama knows his basketball.
The New Mexico Lobos held on to scratch out a 75-68 NCAA West Region win Thursday in Portland, Ore., over Long Beach State and move on to play the Louisville Cardinals. "We're excited that we're here through the weekend and hopefully we can continue to play well," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford.
Of course, it's really Lobos vs. Cardinals, but the coaching sideshow of UNM's Steve Alford vs. Rick Pitino isn't anything to discount. You have two of the top coaches in NCAA ball handed less than 48 hours to prepare their teams to enter the Sweet 16.
President Obama picked the Lobos to find the sweetness, but on Saturday in Portland, Ore., the ending will be determined only by Lobos and Cardinals.
Louisville advanced to the third round off the play of point guard Peyton Silva, who had 17 points and six assists in the Cardinals' 69-62 second round win over Davidson on Thursday. Louisville will carry a No. 4 seed at the No. 5 Lobos.
This is the first time since 2009 that Louisville has moved forward in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lobos had had four players in double figures - Drew Gordon (18), Kendall Williams (16), Hugh Greenwood (12) and Demetrius Walker (11) - to push past Long Beach State. The 49ers got 17 points from Casper Ware, but the senior point guard went 5-of-19 on the day and 2-of-9 from long range. Ware was pressured all game long by UNM's Williams.
"We had a pretty good game plan for Casp," said Williams. "A little bit of it was luck, him missing shots down the stretch, probably a little tired. He is a great player, so we probably got a little lucky."
Alford saw more than just luck. He also saw a gutsy Lobo hounding Ware all over the court.
"What I think you have seen (Kendall) develop into -- that has been very, very unappreciated all year -- is the type of defensive player he is," said Alford. "Casper Ware is terrific and he had to work for everything he had."
UNM shot 50 percent from the floor and sealed the win with an 18-of-24 performance from the line.
"We did a good job getting to the free-throw line," said Alford. "I thought we took good care of the ball in the second half and it gave our offense a chance to get in rhythm."
The Lobos got some huge shots from Williams down the stretch including a 3-pointer that put the Lobos back up 62-61 after the 49ers found some momentum off a steal and a dunk. He also scored on a drive to put UNM up 70-66.
"He has something that you just can't teach. He has that extra gear," Alford said of Williams. "He is the faster player I've ever coached. He is very, very elusive. He can go right and left. He can go North and South.
"He is hard to catch up to. He doesn't wear down. He is one of those guys who can go and go and go forever. He has that ability that very few players have, like tonight. He can make big shots."
The Cardinals advance with a 27-9 mark to play the 28-6 Lobos. Louisville is coming off a Big East Tournament title while UNM is the Mountain West king.
Gordon had a size advantage against Long Beach State that will not be carried over to the Louisville game. The Cardinals have 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng inside and a defense that is considered to be one of the nation's best.
Louisville, ranked as high as No.4 this season, hold opponents to 38 percent shooting and 61 points. Davidson shot 35 percent and the Wildcats were 4-of-19 from long range.
Second Half: New Mexico 42, Long Beach State 39
It was a good beginning for the Lobos especially because it was a good beginning for UNM's inside game and Gordon. The Lobos were up 41-37 at the first media break with six points coming in the paint: four from Gordon and two from Cameron Bairstow on a dunk off a Greenwood feed.
And neither team had a turnover at that point.
Long Beach State pulled to 41-40 on a trey by Anderson and tied it 43-all on an old-fashioned trey by Ennis. Greenwood hit a long trey at the top of the key to give UNM a 46-43 lead. The Lobos pushed their lead to 49-43 on a McDonald trey that followed a forced trey by Ware.
The 49ers turned it over and Gordon was fouled inside. He missed both shots, but got the board and scored to hand UNM a 51-43 lead. The Lobos' balance and depth was beginning to show. Ware had missed his last seven shots from the field.
Long Beach State then went on a run to cut UNM's lead to 51-49; the last bucket muscled in by Ware underneath. Coach Alford called for a time out at the 9:55 mark. The Lobos got a trey from Williams to go up 54-49. Mike Caffey hit a jumper for LBS: 54-51 followed by a tough fade away jumper by Ware over good pressure from Williams. That 54-53 score carried into the 7:41 media break.
Gordon scored two free throws to push UNM up 56-53. Ware and Phelps scored inside to form a 57-all tie. Greenwood scored on a drive and a floater and UNM was up 59-57. Ware tied it for LBS with two from the line and then Ennis stole a soft pass from Greenwood and finished with a dunk to put the 49ers up 61-59.
Williams then hit a long trey to put the Lobos back up, 62-61. "That was a huge shot," said Alford. Said Williams. "I just wanted to come back and clutch up for my team and spread it (lead) out a little bit." UNM got a defensive stop that led to a reverse layup from Gordon to push the Lobos up 64-61.
Ware forced and missed another trey and UNM had the ball going into the media break at 3:35. Williams came out of the UNM huddle and hit two free throws to push UNM up 66-61 - up five points.
LBS' Edis Dervisevic scored inside: 66-63. Greenwood was bumped 28 feet from the basket and knocked down two: 68-63. Ware missed tough fade away and Gordon pulled down the board. The Lobos had a great chance to extend their gap, but a Bairstow turnover led to a Caffey trey and the game was tight again at 68-66.
Williams then scored on a drive to push UNM up 70-66 with 1:25 to play. "I just wanted to take better shots and create off opportunities," said Williams. "I think in the first half I was a little passive. Our coaches told us to get into the lane and penetrate and make plays."
LBS called a time out after Williams' drive gave UNM that four-point bulge.
"That time out was, `Let's hold them under four points and it's impossible for them to win,'" said Alford. "Our guys have made defensive play after defensive play all year long."
LBS came out of its huddle and Ware missed on a drive. UNM had another chance to extend its lead, but Walker missed a front-on layup. Ware missed a baseline trey and UNM controlled the ball and Walker was fouled at 39.3. He made the front side of a one-and-one and UNM was up 71-66.
Ware went to the line at 28.8 and made it 71-68. Greenwood was fouled at 27.1 - a one-and-one - and made both to push UNM up 73-68. The Lobos took a five-point lead into a time out with 27.1 to play.
Ware got a good look on a drive, but missed a layup as Gordon faked pressure. Gordon got the board and was fouled at 12.9. That pretty much ended it, but Gordon sealed it at the line with two free throws: 75-68.
"They made more plays, made more free throw, did the little things down the stretch just a little bit better than we did," said LBS Coach Dan Monson. "We didn't have a solution defensively.
"You can't play one half on one end of the floor (defense) and one half on the other end of the floor (offense) and think you are going to advance in the NCAA Tournament and unfortunately that happened to us tonight."
First Half: New Mexico 33, Long Beach State 29
The two so-called stars of this Portland clash weren't huge factors in the first half. Gordon had six points and three boards for UNM. Ware had a slightly better half with seven points and four assists for the 49ers.
UNM's Demetrius Walker was the big factor in the first half with nine points off the bench. The Lobos had 19 of their 33 first-half points coming off the bench as Fenton and Bairstow each scored five points.
The teams were both sloppy with the ball early. The 49ers finished the half with 12 turnovers and UNM had ten. LBS shot 48.1 percent (13-of-27) and UNM shot 50 percent (12-of-24). UNM had an edge at the line going 6-of-8 to 1-of-5 for LBS. The 49ers started defensive whiz Larry Anderson, who had missed three games with a sprained knee. He played only nine minutes in the half.
"I like what we are doing defensively," said Alford at the half. "We just haven't gotten rhythm. We have to get some kind of offensive rhythm."
The good news for the Lobos early was Long Beach State had five turnovers before it could take a shot and went into the first media break at 15:47 with six miscues. The bad news was the 49ers were up 5-2 as UNM had four turnovers and was 1-of-4 from the field - a dunk by Hardeman off a Gordon feed.
UNM came out of its break and had turnover No. 5 off a shot-clock violation. Ware made it hurt even more with a long trey that pushed LBS up 8-2. Alford went to his bench during that break and it paid off as Fenton and Walker (trey) scored to pull the Lobos to 8-7.
The 11:36 time out was formed off Long Beach State's eighth turnover. The Lobos had one fewer with seven and that helped UNM carry an 11-10 lead into that huddle. A lot of these turnovers by both teams were unforced errors.
The teams see-sawed up to the 7:26 break with ties at 12-all, 14-all and 16-all. A trey under pressure by Greenwood pushed UNM up 19-18. At that break LBS had nine turnovers and UNM had eight. Both teams were shooting well, but losing possessions with poor ball possession.
Long Beach State recaptured the lead at 22-20, but Fenton hit the back of the rim with a 3-ball that died and fell in to give UNM a 23-22 lead. The 49ers got a layup followed by a steal and dunk by Ennis to go up 26-23. Gordon scored inside to make it 26-25 going into the final media break of the half at the 3:38 mark.
The Lobos then went on a Walker-led run. He hit four straight free throws to push UNM up 29-27. The 49ers missed badly and UNM ran. Walker penetrated and fed Gordon under the glass for an easy bank shot. UNM's 31-27 lead convinced the 49ers to burn a time out with 50 seconds to play.
The 49ers scored inside as Mike Caffey got past Williams on the baseline to score a layup off a pass by Robinson: 31-29. Bairstow scored inside off a Williams' feed to finished the scoring and hand UNM the 33-29 lead.
Looking Ahead to Louisville: