Stevens: Lobos Claw Back To Scratch Out 86-81 ESPN Win Over Davidson

Nov. 13, 2012

Final Stats

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Tuesday: New Mexico Lobos 86, Davidson Wildcats 81

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Really, there was never a single knockout blow delivered in The Pit Tuesday morning in New Mexico's made-for-ESPN 86-81 comeback victory over the Davidson Wildcats.

This was a flurry of blows coming from a variety of directions -- a one-two-three-four-five-six combination.

The blending of Lobo determination, Pit energy, a 12:05 a.m., tip, Tony Snell's 25 points, a 27-7 second-half edge on the boards, and UNM going 38-of-44 from the line was too much for the Wildcats to endure.

Give the `Cats credit for jumping up by 16 points and lasting as long as they did against this tidal wave of odds that favored New Mexico.

`Our fans were phenomenal," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford shortly before 3 a.m., Tuesday. "Our crowd never wavered. It was high volume for 40 minutes and I think our guys really played to that.

"What a great way to start the season. It was a great college basketball game. I can't be more proud of how our program and our team looked on national TV."

The Lobos didn't look that good in the first half - "out of rhythm," said Alford - but the New Mexico surge from a 14-point halftime gap was a rally full of exclamation points and full of Lobo heroes.

The Lobos had four players in double figures: Snell with 25, Kendall Williams with 17, Alex Kirk with 14 and Demetrius Walker with 10. Williams went 13-of-14 from the line, Snell went 9-of-10 and Cameron Bairstow went 7-of-8. Kirk led UNM with seven boards in 25 minutes. Williams had seven assists.

The Lobos won the battle of the boards 45-to-28. Davidson went 15-of-20 from the line and was outscored by 23 points at the line. The Wildcats went 12-of-30 from 3-point range while UNM went a chilly 4-of-17. UNM was 40.7 percent from the field and Davidson was 42.2 percent.

"I'm really proud of my basketball team," said Alford. "This (Davidson) was an outstanding basketball team. We are going to watch this tape a lot. They do a lot of good things and this will be a team that wins 25-plus games. This is a great, great win for us."

Obviously, this was a game the Lobos won with a second-half charge. The Lobos intensified their defense, took better care of the basketball, and continued to attack the basket in the second half.

UNM out rebounded Davidson by 20 boards in the second half, but the Lobos effort at the free throw line was astounding.

The Lobos not only got to the free-throw line. They made their shots -- under pressure.

UNM also gave up no offensive boards in the second half - another amazing stat line. Still, maybe the difference in this game was the Lobos' commitment to attacking the glass and attacking the Davidson defense.

"We got out of the rhythm in the first half," said Alford. "They are more experienced but I thought we are more athletic and we wanted to drive them."

Actually, the Lobos drove the Wildcats almost at will - but Alford probably had to will his Lobos to do that with a few choice words. The UNM attack in the first half did not feature a lot of attack. In the second half, the Lobos were north-to-south nasty.

Snell was the catalyst for much of the UNM attack. He never left the floor, playing 40 minutes.

"He was terrific," Alford said of his junior guard. "He is driving the basketball. We got to get him to the free-throw line and we have to get him shots. I am very appreciative of the effort that Tony gave us."

The Lobos took their first lead of the game at 1:50 a.m. and went up for good at 2:02 a.m. when Alex Kirk hit two free throws to push UNM up 72-70 with 3:20 to play. The Wildcats had controlled about 75 percent of the game, but not the final 10 minutes as UNM made a charge the Wildcats could not match.

The Lobos were smart in attacking the Wildcats and creating fouls from a Davidson team that played too much defense with its hands and not its tiring feet.

Kirk backed up his free throws with a dunk at 3:01 and UNM's four-point lead at 74-70 looked huge - well, until Chris Czerapowicz hit a baseline trey: 74-73. The Wildcats were still fighting, but they could not keep the Lobos off the line.

Williams was fouled on a drive at 2:09 and made his 10th and 11th points of the game from the line to hand UNM a 76-73 lead. Davidson now had four players with four fouls.

Snell delivered a couple of daggers down the stretch - a 3-pointer at 1:08 that put UNM up 79-73 and a blocked shot that led to a Williams' dunk and an 84-78 UNM lead with 20 seconds to play.

Davidson made another trey with 10 ticks to go to pull to 84-81, but Williams banged in two more free throws with 7.7 seconds to play and that sealed it. The Lobos also got two big free throws by Hugh Greenwood at the 48.7 mark to push UNM up 81-75.

The Lobos came out of the half down by 14 and slowly chipped away against a Wildcat team that seemed to tire as the clock slipped deeper into the morning. A tip by Cleveland Thomas on a Snell miss made the count 60-53 at the 11:08 mark and Davidson called a timeout - maybe more for rest than strategy.

From that point on, the Lobos continued to wear down Davidson as UNM's gap went from 60-55, 60-57, 61-59 and finally 61-61. When it became a game again, it was simply too late for the Wildcats.

Davidson got 22 points from De'Mon Brooks, but their 6-foot-10 Jake Cohen was frustrated inside by the UNM defense and went 2-of-12 from the floor.

First Half: Davidson Wildcats 45, New Mexico Lobos 31

The Lobos fell behind 10-0 and 25-9, but scratched back to 37-31 with 1:34 to play in the half. The Davidson Wildcats then used two Lobo turnovers to help them score the final eight points of the half and carry a 45-31 lead into the break.

UNM shot 34.6 percent from the floor in the half and Davidson shot 44.7 percent, but UNM's shooting was damaged from the 3-point range. UNM was 1-of-9 from long range with Snell making the only trey.

The Lobos used a 12-of-16 effort from the line to stay in the half. The Wildcats were 3-of-3 from the stripe. UNM got 14 points from Snell. Davidson was led by Brooks and Clint Mann with 11 points each. Wildcat Tyler Kalinoski had eight points including the two bombs prior to the half.

The Lobos were beat on the boards 21-18 and lost the turnover battle in the half, 9-to-6. Davidson had eight more field goals and went 8-of-17 from behind the line.

The Wildcats definitely were wide awake for the 12:05 a.m. start. They got a two-pointer inside by De'Mon Brooks and the talented Wildcat later made it 4-0 on two free throws. When Chris Czerapowicz banged in back-to-back 3-pointers, Alford called for a timeout, his Lobos down 10-0.

UNM finally cracked the scoreboard when Snell went to the line and dropped in two: 10-2. That score carried into the first media break at 15:59. The Lobos cut the count to 10-4, but Davidson then went on a 7-0 run to go up 17-4. UNM was 1-of-10 from the field.

The Lobos then went down 22-6 before Snell knocked in UNM's first trey to cut the Lobos' deficit to 22-9. Davidson responded with a trey and at the 11:22 break, UNM was down 25-9. UNM was 2-of-12 from the field (16.7 percent). Davidson had 11 points off its bench.

The Lobos found a weapon outside in Kirk, who went outside to bang in two long jumpers. The 7-foot Lobo seemed to put a spark into UNM's offense. Snell also woke up and hit a baseline trey made it 30-20 in Davidson's favor. The Lobos were beginning to move on offense and started to attack the glass.

However, Davidson was still scoring. At the 7:07 break, UNM was down 32-20, but the energy level was shifting to Lobos.

Davidson might have noticed the same thing. A two-handed dunk by Bairstow made the score 32-24, and Davidson burned a timeout.

Brooks, who had been quiet for several minutes, then rolled inside for a dunk and hit a 3-pointer to push the `Cats up by 13, 37-24. That count carried into the 3:28 timeout. At the 2:37 mark, a Snell free throw and a Kirk follow under the glass had the Lobos down by 10, 37-27. UNM's Williams got fouled underneath and dropped a single free throw to make it 37-28. UNM had cut the gap to single digits.

An air ball by Davison's Cochran led to a Snell drive. The Lobo junior was knocked off balance on a jumper, but he dropped it and added the free throw to pull UNM to 37-31. The Lobos saw a lot of hard work lost in the final 1:12. Davidson got a layup followed by back-to-back Kalinoski treys that came off UNM turnovers. Davidson took a 45-31 lead into the break.