Stevens: Lobos Burn Idaho; Play Portland Sunday at 6 p.m.
Nov. 23, 2012
Lobos to play Portland Pilots - 6 p.m., Sunday in The Pit
It was a late night of cramming for Lobo Coach Steve Alford and his staff as they tried to come up with a game plan for Sunday's 6 p.m. visit by Portland.
""It's quick. It's a quick turnaround," said Alford. "There won't be a lot of prep."
The Lobos put away Idaho on Friday and did a Cliff Notes' cram session Saturday on what to expect from Portland. One thing the Lobo coaching staff can pass on is that Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow will have a defensive challenge from Portland's Ryan Nicholas.
Nicholas, nicknamed Rhino, is Portland's top returning scorer and rebounder. He had a double-double at Ohio (16 points, 11 boards) and scored 22 against Idaho State. Portland's Rhino averaged 11.5 points and 7.6 boards last year.
Nicholas had 19 points and 14 rebounds last year in the regular-season finale at Brigham Young. He followed that effort with 24 points and 11 boards in the Pilots' WCC Tournament win over Santa Clara.
Yep, the Rhino can score, but can he score over the 7-foot Kirk and the rough-and-tumble Bairstow?
Nicholas comes into The Pit with a 14.3 average and is joined in double figures by Kevin Bailey with a 12.0 average.
The Pilots likely won't try to run with the Lobos in The Pit. They average 60 points per game, but did score 51 in a half after shooting 71 percent. Portland went on to an 81-60 win over Portland State.
Junior Guard Tanner Riley came off the bench to score 23 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting night from the field vs. Portland State.
Portland is coached by Eric Reveno, in his seventh season as a Pilot. Portland won 60 games from 2008 to 2011, but only won seven games last year. Portland returns three starters and 10 lettermen from last year's team that finished eighth in the WCC with a 3-13 league record.
LOBOS BEAT IDAHO, 73-58
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Friday: New Mexico Lobos 73, Idaho Vandals 58
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If the Idaho Vandals think the soil in New Mexico is cursed, who can blame them?
They might also think Lobo Coach Steve Alford cast a spell on The Pit rims about five minutes into the second half.
The Vandals made it 0-17 vs. New Mexico teams (Yes, NMSU, too) on New Mexico ground Friday night in The Pit as New Mexico roared out of a 49-46 deficit and slapped a 19-0 defense-led run on Idaho en route to a 73-58 Pit romp.
"We had a 15-hour travel day, three time zones," said Alford of UNM's winning return from the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "It's tough. I don't know if letdown is the word, but you have a period of time it takes to get back into rhythm."
The Lobos found their groove and stayed undefeated at 5-0. They take that unblemished mark into The Pit Sunday for a 6 p.m. run with Portland.
"It's good to keep getting wins as we learn," said Alford. "I'm really proud of the guys. The first game after you have been gone for a while is always a difficult task."
The Lobos' second-half surge was paced by improved defense and Demetrius Walker, who went 5-of-5 from 3-point range to help UNM pull away. Chad Adams got the start Friday over Walker and had nine points in 26 minutes. The shift by Alford was strategic. He wanted to move Walker from a forward spot and into a guard position while becoming yet another scoring spark off the bench.
The strategy worked.
"I think that was a mistake," Alford said of playing Walker in a big-man position. "We just felt like we were doing an injustice to Demetrius. We tried it. It didn't work.
"We were asking him to do things he had never done. He's a big, aggressive guard and he can guard guards. He can give us a lot of production offensively and defensively being a guard."
Said Walker of the move: "It felt amazing. Battling down there with those bigs guys is tough so getting on the wing and battling with guards that are the same size as myself felt good on my body at the end of the game."
"(Kirk) is making things hard on teams in the paint," said Alford. "He is really starting to get comfortable and is really doing a lot of good things."
The Vandals scored a 3-pointer at the 15:31 mark, but didn't score a field goal again until there was 5:35 to play. By that point, UNM's 19-0 run had produced a 65-49 Lobo lead.
"Our guys, from that point on, I thought played really well," said Alford. "In the second half, we started to wear them down a little bit."
The Lobos ended up shooting 51 percent to 41 percent for Idaho. The board battle was even at 32-all. UNM was 10-of-20 from 3-point range and Idaho was 8-of-24. Snell had a nice passing night with his seven assists, but had six points and one board.
Idaho was led by Connor Hill with 20 points and Kyle Barone with 16 inside. The Lobos got 34 points off the bench to seven for Idaho. The attendance was 14,741.
Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 37, Idaho Vandals 22
The Vandals came out of the locker room, scored six, and quickly turned the 36-36 halftime tie into a 42-36 Idaho lead. The Vandals went up 47-41 and 49-46 and then the Lobos used a combination of threes, steals and Pit energy to slide into a 53-49 lead. Fenton scored on a steal and a fast break at 11:42 to finalize that four-point bulge.
Bairstow got a dunk at 8:55 and UNM had a 10-point run. Adams banged in a 3-pointer and the run was 13-0. The Lobos were up 59-49 and took that gap into a break at 7:31. The Vandals hadn't scored a field goal since the 15:31 mark - exactly eight minutes.
The Lobos continued to surge. A layup by Kirk at 6:50 pushed UNM up 62-49. Greenwood made it a 19-0 run with a trey at 6:01 and UNM carried a 65-49 lead into a Idaho break called at 5:51. Yeah, it was over. UNM was shooting 60 percent.
Idaho finally snapped UNM's run and the Vandals' drought at 5:35. The Vandals had gone almost 10 minutes without a field goal.
The Lobos cruised into the 15-point win.
First Half: New Mexico Lobos 36, Idaho Vandals 36
Idaho played well early and at a break at the 13:22 mark led 15-13. Both teams were shooting well: UNM at 55.6 percent and Idaho at 54.5 percent. Idaho had no turnovers at that mark. UNM needed to improve on the defensive end. At the 11:49 break, Idaho was up 17-16 with no significant differences in the major stats.
The Lobos then went on a little run, not much, but a Bairstow dunk followed by a Walker trey pushed UNM up 22-18. The Pit got into it and Idaho signaled for a time - down four at the 9:10 mark.
The Lobos' defense got better. They contested more shots and the Vandals began to miss. Bairstow gave UNM its biggest lead up to that point with two free throws that made it 26-19. The Bengals then answered three times inside, twice in transition: 26-25 and Alford burned a timeout.
A Snell miss led to an Idaho trey: 28-26. Adams scored inside for UNM to tie the game at 28-all. Williams got fouled inside on a follow and make a single free throw: 29-28. That score joined the teams on the sideline at the 3:58 media break. Idaho still had a nice shooting eye at that point, 47.8 percent and UNM wasn't far behind at 43.5 percent. UNM had three more free throws than Idaho.
The Lobos then did damage from long range. Fenton hit a trey and Walker hit a trey and got fouled. He added the bonus and UNM was up 36-28. A trio of UNM turnovers down the stretch helped Idaho form the 36-36 tie. Idaho hit a long trey with 2.9 seconds to play.
NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2012-13 ROSTER/STATISICS