Stevens: Lobos Get Fierce In 75-67 Pit Roll Over USC Trojans

Dec. 5, 2012

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New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Wednesday: New Mexico Lobos 75, Southern California Trojans 67
Up Next: 7 p.m., Saturday -- Valparaiso at Lobos - Bob King Floor

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It's possible that the lesson the USC Trojans slapped onto the Top 20 Lobos in the first half will benefit the Lobos long into the season. Maybe even more than New Mexico's 75-67 win.

The Lobos ran into a Trojan team in the first half that played with the serious intent needed to hang with a Top 20 team on its home court. It is an attitude the Lobos will see again - and again.

"We always want to come out and punch first and we didn't do that tonight," said UNM's Hugh Greenwood, who topped all scorers with 17 points.

The Trojans went up 28-18 - and then a Top 20 team woke up, in intensity and especially on the defensive end.

The Lobos outscored USC 25-6 the rest of the way, grabbed a 43-34 halftime lead and also did something very important: The Lobos turned a confident Trojan team into a team that was wondering if could hang with the Lobos in The Pit.

It couldn't. Not quite. UNM ran its undefeated mark to 9-0 with a 75-67 non-conference victory Wednesday night in front of a rowdy 15,241.

"It was a big run," Alford said of that 25-6 streak. "You are down ten and you end up going up at the half. I'm extremely proud of the team. There were a lot of positives in this one. They only had three offensive rebounds, so they obviously were concerned with our transition game."

New Mexico had three players in double figures: Greenwood with 17, and Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams with 13 apiece. Williams added a season-high nine assists. "Kendall was terrific at both ends," said Alford.

Kirk had 13 boards - 10 fewer than USC's team total. "(Kirk) goes against two seven-footers and he gets 13 and 13," said Alford. "In my mind, he was the best big on the floor. He made some big key plays for us."

UNM shot a hot 51.9 percent from the floor and USC was right there at 52.9 percent. The Lobos won the glass battle 31-23, but their big edge was from 3-point range when UNM went 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) to 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) for USC. UNM did not have its usual edge at the free-throw line going 8-of-14 to 9-of-12 for the 3-5 Trojans.

USC had four players in double figures, but only seven points off its bench. UNM had 17 points off the pine.

"Every game is big for us, especially holding down The Pit," said Williams. "We are 9-0- and haven't lost a game yet and we want to keep that going."

Second Half: Southern California Trojans 33, New Mexico Lobos 32

The Trojans needed to get off to a good start in the second half like they did in the first half. It didn't happen. A Greenwood trey pushed USC into a 50-38 hole at the 17:20 mark and USC quickly burned a timeout. At the 15:28 break, UNM was up 52-40.

A Kirk trey made it 57-42 and down 15 in The Pit, USC again went into a huddle. At 8:54, the Trojans again called time, this time down 68-52. The Lobos were on a roll. "I thought our pace and our intensity was even up a level," said Alford. "That was really high level of basketball for us."

USC then went on a roll of its own. The Trojans pulled to 70-61 at the 5:32 mark and it was Alford's turn to burn a timeout.

A Lobo turnover led to a Dewayne Dedmon jumper over Kirk. That 70-63 score had Alford bringing his team in for another 30-second huddle at the 3:14 mark. At the 2:47 media break, it was still 70-63. USC had just missed a jumper and a chance to cut UNM's lead to five points.

"I thought USC did a good job of continuing to play hard," said Alford. "We went a little stagnant."

Said Williams: "The zone definitely messed us up a little bit."

USC cut it to five anyway. Snell missed on the baseline and USC's Jio Fontan hit two free throws: 70-65. Williams gave the Lobos an eight-point comfort zone with a bomb: 73-65. USC missed and UNM's Greenwood made it 75-65 with a jumper. UNM massaged the clock into the 75-67 final.

First Half: New Mexico Lobos 43, Southern California Trojans 34

It was an intense first half - and a tale of two Lobo teams. A good Lobo team turned into a fierce Lobo team.

It didn't really look like the Trojans cared much about tempo early. They came out gunning and took a 15-13 lead into the first media break. The Pit loved the pace.

USC opened with a Dewayne Dedmon dunk and a J.T. Terrell trey to take a quick 5-0 lead. UNM cracked the board with a Chad Adams' trey: 5-3. The teams more or less exchanged buckets into the first break at 15:05. USC was shooting 87.5 percent at that point and UNM was at 71.4 percent. Adams led UNM with six points. The predicted defensive struggle had not yet emerged.

The pace stayed healthy going into the 11:55 stop. However, the shooting had cooled some. USC used a trey after a Snell turnover to take a 20-15 lead at that point. USC was shooting 75 percent and UNM had dropped to 54.5 percent. The Trojans had doubled UNM on the boards, 6-3.

The Trojans definitely came out with serious intent. They punched the Lobos hard early. The Lobos didn't exactly match that intensity and fell behind by 10 points, 28-18. A Greenwood trey made it 28-21 but then USC's Dedmon scored on a big jump hook to allow USC to carry a 30-21 lead into the 7:00 break.

A Williams' drive cut USC's gap to 30-26 and the Trojans burned a 30-second timeout at the 6:18 mark. UNM's Cleveland Thomas forced a turnover that turned into a long Greenwood trey: 30-27. USC's Dedmon drove and lost the ball which led to a Williams' bucket in transition. USC burned another timeout at 5:07.

UNM had cut its hole to a single digit: 30-29. The Lobos had upped their level of play on the defensive end and it was creating dividends at the other end. The Lobos were beginning to play like a Top 20 team. The Trojans - and The Pit -- knew it, too.

At the 3:40 break, a Williams-to-Adams layup had the Lobos up 31-30. UNM extended to 36-32 on a Greenwood trey and to 37-32 on a Williams' free throw at 1:44. A Williams' trey turned the board to 40-34 in UNM's favor. The Lobos milked the clock for a final shot and a Williams' penetration drive left Greenwood open on the baseline. He drilled it.

UNM had turned a 28-18 hole into a 43-34 halftime lead - a 25-6 finish. USC scored four points in the final seven minutes.

"We started getting stops," said Greenwood. "They weren't missing."

"We had about a 20 minute stretch that I thought really helped us. We played our best basketball of the year," said Williams of the final seven minutes of the first half and the early minutes of the second half.

The Lobos ended up shooting 55.2 percent in the half to 58.3 percent for USC. But UNM rocked the Trojans from long range gunning at a 53.8 percent clip, 7-of-13. Greenwood was 4-of-6 from long range to finish with 12 first-half points. Adams was 2-of-4.

UNM won the glass battle 16-11. USC was 2-of-6 from the 3-point line. Williams and Adams each had eight points in the first half. Snell had four first-half turnovers and played only nine minutes in the half.