Stevens: Lobos Hang On To Trip USC Trojans 44-41
Dec. 10, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - At Southern Cal
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a score more fitting for a football game than a basketball game, but the 44-41 count favoring Steve Alford's Lobos marked a perfect ending on the scoreboard.
Although you couldn't have blamed Alford if he had decided to give his Lobos a halftime cup of coffee in order to keep them awake.
The game also was sort of a yawner.
"We got bored playing this way as a team," said Alford. "It's an ugly style and it was an ugly game. I'm glad we don't have to play this style every night.
"In an ugly game, in an ugly style, the bottom line on the road is you have to find a way to get a win and we found a way to win. I'm very, very pleased."
The ending on the board might have been perfect for UNM, but it wasn't quite as perfect on the court as the Lobos played the final 14 minutes and 16 seconds without a field goal. UNM finished the game with a season-high 24 turnovers.
"We got a little careless and probably a little bored," said Alford.
With the offense struggling, the Lobos had to roll up their sleeves and grind out the win with defense, floor play and hustle.
Tony Snell hit a layup with 14:16 to play to push UNM up 33-24. The final Lobo points came at the line as USC stormed to a 41-40 lead only to have the Lobos make enough plays down the stretch to leave Los Angeles with the win. UNM is 7-2 on the season.
UNM was paced in scoring by Drew Gordon with 13 points. The 6-foot-9 senior also had 13 rebounds as the Lobos won the board battle 36-23. Snell ended with 10 points. UNM senior A.J. Hardeman had seven boards and freshman Hugh Greenwood had five assists.
The Lobos went into the game knowing they had to stop USC guard Maurice Jones. The Trojan had a nice game with 19 points and five boards and missed a 3-pointer at the gun which could have pushed USC into overtime.
"We dominated the backboard again. We dominated the free-throw line," said Alford. "We come on the road and give up five free throws. We are really holding people down in shooting percentage, in points and keeping them off the foul line." UNM's edge on the scoreboard was helped by their edge at the line. UNM went 15-of-20 from the charity stripe and USC went 3-of-5.
The Trojans were trying to make this a defensive battle and keep the score low. They did that with tough defense that forced UNM into a season-high 24 turnovers. USC had 15 turnovers.
The second half began well for the Lobos, who came to USC hoping to hit a few bombs over a Trojan team known for its interior defense. UNM got back-to-back treys from Snell and Williams to go up 29-17.
Alford said after getting the lead, "I didn't want to start gambling on defense and give them easy baskets. We decided to anchor in."
Williams' bomb convinced USC to burn a 30-second timeout. The Trojan huddle seemed to help. USC came out with a 5-0 run that made the score 29-22 in favor of the visitors from Albuquerque. The Lobos and USC see-sawed along with UNM staying up by at least six points until a trey by USC's Maurice Jones cut the Trojan hole to 38-35 with 4:36 to play. The Lobos had 23 turnovers at that point.
It was a bad stretch for the Lobos, who had ten turnovers and one field goal in the past nine minutes. Another Trojan trey, this one by Alexis Moore, made it 40-38 in UNM's favor. The Lobos' last field goal came at the 14:16 mark by Snell.
USC doubled teamed Gordon inside and created UNM's 24th turnover. That led to a layup by Dewayne Dedmon, who also was fouled. He knocked down the extra shot and USC had a 41-40 lead with 1:51 to play. It was USC's third lead of the game.
UNM's Snell was fouled trying to break UNM's drought from the field. He went to the line with 1:27 to go and made both shots to push UNM up 42-41. The Lobos got a defensive stop by forcing Dedmon to shoot a jumper. UNM's Gordon got the rebound. UNM called time with 32 seconds to play and guarding that one-point lead.
The Lobos worked the ball into Hardeman off a Gordon pass. Hardeman was hammered and went to the line with 17.9 ticks to play. The 7-foot Dedmon fouled out on the play. Hardeman made both free throws and USC needed a trey to produce overtime. The Trojans didnt' get it and UNM had the narrow 44-41 win.