Stevens: Wow -- Alford's Lobos Stomp Air Force 81-42
Jan. 31, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road
Tuesday: New Mexico Lobos 81, Air Force Falcons 42
Saturday: 2 p.m. (MT), New Mexico Lobos at Boise State
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Wow. Can we have another 13 days, coach?
Steve Alford's "13 Days of Challenge" are beginning to look so good and so productive that maybe the Lobo coach ought to start the count all over again. The Lobos could use a few more days and nights like the one they found in Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Quick perspective: This 81-42 beating was Air Force's worst home loss in the history of Clune Arena.
"That 13 days is now down to three," said Alford, referring to the finish line of his challenge to his Lobos that ends with New Mexico's Saturday visit to Boise State - a game that marks the end of the first half of the Mountain West race.
Of course, the challenge will start again. The second half of run toward the top of the Mountain starts next week and San Diego State and UNLV are hovering beyond the horizon.
The Falcons' Princeton offense met the New Mexico defense Tuesday in Clune Arena and, really, it was no contest. If you are a New Mexico Lobos fans, you might roll this 39-point Mountain West romp into a single word: "Wow."
If you are an Air Force fan or another Mountain West opponent, you might ask: "What the heck happened?"
Said Alford: "It was a special night."
Said Drew Gordon: "Coach did an excellent job preparing us for their offense. All in all, everything went in our favor."
It's not a surprise that the Lobos journeyed up to Air Force and beat the Falcons on their home court. The Steve Alford Lobos are a tough road team. The 2012 Lobos are a very good team. But to spank the Falcons by 39 points after they took No. 12 UNLV into overtime, well, maybe all you can do is toss out the pertinent numbers.
"Our bench is a key for us," said Alford. "We thought our bench had a dramatic advantage over their bench."
You have to credit the Lobos' smothering defense for this MW romp. You also can't discount the efficiency of UNM's deadeye offense paced by four Lobos in double figures: Drew Gordon (13), Kendall Williams (13), Phillip McDonald (11) and Demetrius Walker (11).
"The guys went out and executed," said Alford. "We had really good movement and spacing. We took good shots. When this team takes good shots, more than not, we'll make the good shots. We had a lot of guys make a lot of shots tonight.
"But this was a lot more than shooting. I thought we really guarded and took them out of the things they wanted to do. The defense was outstanding and this is not an easy team to prepare for."
The Lobos looked to have won the game in the first half by rolling to a 40-19 count at the break. What UNM needed to avoid in the second half was an early run by Air Force that might have given the Falcons' a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Falcons found no run and no light. They were in the dark most of the night.
At the 10:54 mark, the Lobos were up 57-28 - yes, that's 29 points. At 10:23, it was 60-28 - 32 points. With 9:16 to go, Air Force's frustration materialized when a Falcon grabbed Tony Snell's arm on a drive and was whistled for an intentional foul.
Snell missed the two free throws, but Jamal Fenton came down on UNM's next possession to bank in a jumper and make it 62-28.
UNM's Cameron Bairstow scored inside and it was 64-28 with 7:25 to play. The game was past the "ugly" category. Air Force burned its final timeout probably looking for some way to keep the beating out of the 40-point range.
UNM hit that 40-point range at 71-30 and higher at 79-35. Alford had gone to his bench long ago, but the Lobo bench doesn't cut much into UNM's ability to score and defend. The Falcons worked the score down to 79-40. Walker scored in transition to push UNM to 81-40. Air Forced rallied to the 81-42 final.
"We've been able to win on the road," said Alford. "To have 18 wins under our belts going into February is very special and I can't say enough about our team.
"This is the same (Air Force) team that took UNLV into overtime three nights ago and we have to travel up here and play them. Our guys came out and executed at both ends the way we wanted them to."
UNM's 6-9 Gordon only had eight rebounds, but the movement of Air Force's Princeton weave often pulls big men out of the paint. The defensive rotations often place a defending guard under the glass. The Lobos got seven rebounds from Williams and eight from Walker.
"A big key tonight was how our guards rebounded," said Alford. "We got a lot of good board play out of a lot of guys and that was crucial.
"We also did not want to give them the back-cut layups. I wanted to see them try to make shots over our guys. I don't know if they got a back-cut layup all night. I thought our focus and our concentration was outstanding. Air Force will beat some teams in this building."
Yeah, for sure. But will the Falcons ever be beaten again by this much in their building?