Stevens: Lobos Douse UIC Flames 66-59 in Paradise Jam

Nov. 16, 2012

Final Stats

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Paradise Jam - U.S. Virgin Islands

Friday: New Mexico Lobos 66, Illinois-Chicago 59

Sunday: Lobos vs. George Mason

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

The New Mexico Lobos ran to a 14-point halftime lead and then held off a furious Illinois-Chicago rally to douse the Flames 66-59 Friday in the Paradise Jam held in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Lobos stay in the winners' bracket and will play George Mason on Sunday.

The Patriots (2-1) got past Mercer 52-49 on Friday in the Jam's opening game. George Mason's Johnny Williams had his first career double-double - 16 points and 10 boards - to help the Patriots advance to play the Lobos.

George Mason also got 14 points from Sherrod Wright. The Patriots overcame a chilly 28 percent shooting in the first half by going 13-of-17 in the final 20 minutes (76.5 percent). The Patriots trailed by six points with about six minutes to play but a 7-0 run pushed George Mason into the lead. The Patriots won the game despite not making a 3-point basket.

The UIC Flames cut UNM's lead to 54-52 with 3:28 to play and again to 58-56 with 32 seconds to play before UNM used free throws by Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams to hold off the Flames.

The Lobos were led by Williams with a career-high 23 points, Demetrius Walker with 13 points and nine boards each by Kirk and Hugh Greenwood. UNM shot 40.4 percent from the field and out rebounded UIC 39-32. Greenwood also had four assists.

UNM again used its aggressive attack to create fouls and go to the line - making 23-of-30 with Williams going 11-of-13 and Kirk going 5-of-8. UIC shot 11 more field goals and made two more than the Lobos, but their long-range attack (9-of-26) doomed them to an 8-of-14 effort at the line. UIC was aided by 18 Lobo turnovers.

Second Half: Illinois-Chicago 36, New Mexico Lobos 29

The Lobos rolled to a Walker-paced 37-23 halftime lead and looked like they might cruise to an easy win. The Flames had other ideas.

UIC's Marc Brown hit a trey to make it 41-31 as the Flames continued to look for the trey to help get back into the game. A trey by Daniel Barnes at 13:17 cut UNM's lead to 43-36 - seven points.

At the 11:49 break, the Flames had burnt that lead down to five at 43-38. There was a shift in momentum - a 7-0 UIC run - but the Alford Lobos are known for kicking up the defensive intensity down the stretch.

The Lobos did throw out a nice defensive stretch. Josh Crittle scored inside for UIC at 11:28 and the Flames didn't reach the board again until the 7:53 mark. That pulled UIC to 48-42, still in the game. At the 7:30 break, it was still 48-42. UNM was shooting 27 percent from the floor.

UNM's Bairstow hit a bad stretch that put him on the bench. He had a shot blocked by Crittle and then went for some payback on the other end. Crittle got the bucket and Bairstow picked up his fifth foul. Crittle missed the free one: 50-46.

UIC, down 50-46, had a chance to cut UNM's lead to two, but a Snell steal and layup by Williams pushed UNM to 52-46. At 4:15 it was 54-50 in UNM's favor. That score went into the media break at 3:57.

UNM's Kirk came out of the UNM huddle and missed two free throws. UIC's Gary Talton went to the line to tighten the score by two: 54-52 with 3:28 to play. Kirk got fouled on a rebound and again went to the line making one: 55-52. UIC called time at 2:54.

The Flames' rally fell apart after that. Kirk got a huge tip at 1:16 to extend UNM's lead to 57-52. Greenwood got a steal and added a free throw: 58-52. Talton went to the line at the :41 mark and hit two: 58-54. UIC called time.

The Flames came out pressing and got a steal off Williams that led to a Barnes' layup: 58-56. UIC again pressed and quickly fouled Williams. The Lobo came up clutch hitting both free shots at the :32 mark: 60-56.

UNM's Greenwood fouled Talton and, for UNM, the Flame picked a good time to miss both free shots. Kirk pretty much sealed the win with two free shots at :23 to make it 62-56. However, UIC opened the door for a miracle finish with a trey by Humes: 62-59. Williams was fouled with 10 seconds to go and needed one to create the final seal. He made two: 64-59.

Kirk mopped up at the free-throw line with 3.3 to play: 66-59, a seven-point win that was much closer than that score.

First Half: New Mexico Lobos 37, Illinois-Chicago 23

The Lobos used improved defense and the hot hand of Demetrius Walker to pull out of a tight 17-16 game and into a 14-point halftime lead. The Lobos got 13 points from Walker and 10 points from Kendall Williams.

UIC got off two more shots in the half, but a chilly 29 percent shooting helped throw UIC into that halftime hole. UNM went 4-of-6 from the line and UIC, shooting heavily from the perimeter, never reached the line. UNM won the board battle 22-16. The Lobos outscored UIC 14-6 in the paint. Greenwood had six boards and four assists for UNM.

The UIC middle opened up a bit near the halfway mark of the half when 6-foot-9 Josh Crittle went to the bench with his second foul.

UNM had some turnover problems early trying to go inside, but two 3-pointers by Snell and Williams handed them a 6-5 lead at the 15:51 media break. Williams added another five points to the UNM total and Barnes banged in back-to-back treys to form an 11-11 count at the 11:52 break.

At the 7:08 break, UNM nursed a 17-16 lead. UNM got six points off a Greenwood old-fashion trey and a Snell bomb. UNM then went up 22-16 off a layup by Walker at the 6:01 mark. That basket - and better defense - helped propel UNM to a 31-21 lead at the 3:09 mark. UIC was shooting 32 percent from the floor at that mark and UNM was at 45.8. Walker scored the last 11 UNM points.

Williams hit a jumper to push UNM up 33-21 and a Greenwood follow kept the Lobos up by 12: 35-23. A Kirk block led to a transition bucket for UNM by Walker and the Lobos had their biggest lead of the half at 37-23. That held up as the halftime count.

Paradise Jam Facts: The tourney is being played at the University of the Virgin Islands. The tourney runs Friday through Monday... The Sunday semis and Monday's championship and consolation games will be aired by CBS Sports Network. ... UNM won 28 games last year, Mercer won 27, Iona won 25, George Mason won 24, and Connecticut won 20. ... The UConn Huskies are the only ranked team in the field. ..