Stevens: Lobos Stunned 70-65 In Pit By South Dakota State

Dec. 22, 2012

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New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Saturday: South Dakota State 70, New Mexico 65

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Maybe the bus the South Dakota State Jackrabbits took from Tennessee to The Pit was one of those magic buses.

The Jacks -- seemingly unimpressed with New Mexico's No. 16 ranking, not intimidated by The Pit, not road weary -- shocked the Lobos 70-65 Saturday afternoon and knocked them from the undefeated ranks of college basketball.

"That was a tough one," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford of his Lobos dropping to 12-1. "We never got into synch all night. They had a lot to do with it. They deserved it. I thought they played better than us in a lot of areas.

"One team was a lot more focused than the other team on both ends of the floor."

The Lobos had a number of miracle-like plays in the closing minute and got 21 points from Kendall Williams including a last-minute 30-footer. However, the Jacks simply had too big of a lead and had NBA prospect Nate Wolters handling the ball. Wolters finished with 28 points and seven assists.

"The Wolters kid is the real deal and as good a point guard as we've seen," said Alford. "He controlled the game for 40 minutes and did a very good job running his team. You can see they feed off him."

Said Hugh Greenwood, one of many Lobos trying to slow down Wolters: "We tried hard. He made shots over us. Great players are going to play well."

The Lobos never seem to find an offensive rhythm in this contest and never forced the Jackrabbits into a faster pace. The Lobos probably were effected by Williams and Chad Adams not starting - punishment for being late to the game.

"Most of it goes on my hands," said Williams of the loss. "I don't think we got into a flow the entire night."

Said Greenwood: "You want your starting lineup and starts are very important. We need Kendall and Chad to be in that starting lineup."

The Lobos trailed the entire game after a 3-2 start, but two Tony Snell free throws followed by a Wolters' turnover gave UNM a chance. The Lobos had the ball down 60-56.

UNM gave the ball back at the 2:40 mark on an Alex Kirk charge and the Jacks made enough plays and enough buckets to snap UNM's undefeated run. Wolters pushed the Jacks up 62-56 on a runner in the lane. Snell missed from long range and the Jacks' Chad White hit two free throws with 50.3 seconds to play. The Jacks were up 63-56.

That cushion probably produced the win, but UNM got Williams' trey and created a Jacks' turnover with 10 seconds to play and the score 70-65. Williams missed on a layup and that was that.

"At the end of the day, they played harder than us," said Greenwood. "They wanted it more than us. We have some issues we need to take care of."

The loss was UNM's first December loss in The Pit since Dec. 22, 2004 - to Wake Forest.

Alford said he thought one of Wolters' greatest strengths is having a feel for the flow of a game and his team's need. "All-around, he's a really nice player," said Alford. "He got away from us and offensively, we weren't in a very good flow."

Snell ended the game with 13 points, but UNM never was able to take advantage of its size edge inside. The 7-foot Alex Kirk and the 6-9 Cameron Bairstow combined for 12 points and 10 boards. The Jacks had four players in double figures, but only three points off their short bench.

Jordon Dykstra had 10 points and matched Kirk and Bairstow on the boards with ten. The Jacks beat UNM on the glass 36-28. The Jacks went 13-of-15 from the line and that accuracy came in handy down the stretch. Wolters went 9-of-11 from the line.

"He's good. He makes tough shots, some off-balance shots," said Williams, who went 7-of-10 from the line. "He has to make plays for his team to succeed and he did that tonight."

"It's been a great run, but it gets harder and harder," said Alford looking ahead to games at Cincinnati, at Saint Louis and against UNLV in a Mountain West opener in The Pit.

Second Half: South Dakota State 32, New Mexico 31 The Jacks stretched their 38-34 halftime lead to 45-36 before UNM cut it to 45-40 on a Williams' dunk followed by a Snell steal and a Snell layup over Wolters. The Jacks then drifted up 49-40 on a left-handed flip under the glass by Wolters. They took that nine-point lead into the 11:36 media break.

The Jacks were the team that bussed from Tennessee to Albuquerque, but the Lobos were not yet pushing the Jacks to play at a higher level of energy. That needed to change. The Pit also was coasting along needing something to charge it up.

The Pit woke up, for a moment, after a Jamal Fenton trey that cut UNM's hole to 49-43. Wolters answered with a 15-foot jumper followed by a Demetrius Walker drive. The Jacks had a 51-45 lead at a 9:16 break.

Fenton hit another trey: 51-48. The Pit was beginning to growl. Dykstra set the fans back down with an answering trey: 54-48. That score went into the 7:26 media break along with the two teams. The Jacks were shooting 50 percent at that mark and UNM was at 37 percent. The Jacks also had a board edge, 28-23. Wolters had 18 points at that point and three fouls..

Wolters came out of the break and scored on a drive. He converted and SDS was up 57-48. At 5:34, Williams hit a single free throw: 59-52. Wolters got stripped, complained about a foul, but didn't get the call. Greenwood got it on the other end and made one: 59-53. The Jacks needed a score. Wolters produced it on a drive and a foul; got one: 60-53.

The Lobos had begun attacking the basket and kept it up. Snell got fouled on a baseline drive and made one: 60-54. The Jacks had a baseline trey rattle in and rattle out. Snell drove again and was bumped. He came out of the final media break at 3:14 looking at two free throws. The Lobos needed to start knocking down both free ones. The clock was becoming a factor.

Snell did exactly that: 60-56. The Pit decided to join the fight. Wolters drove and threw the ball away. The Pit loved it. Kirk got called for a charge at 2:40. UNM needed a stop. The Jacks needed a bucket. Wolters produced it on a drive and a 10-foot floater: 62-56. Snell missed and Chad White went to the line and pushed his Jacks closer to the upset with two free throw: 63-56 with 50.3 seconds to play.

That pretty much ended it. Williams, like he at the Paradise Jam, made it interesting with a 3-pointer with 30 ticks to go: 66-60. Could UNM follow that with a defensive steal and another miracle finish? The jacks probably were an in-bounds pass away from the victory. They didn't get it on the first attempt but managed to beat the five-second count with a timeout.

They got the ball in this time. Wolters was fouled at 22.7. A single free throw would make it a three-possession game. The Jacks' senior hit them both: 68-60. Williams got an uncontested layup and UNM called time with 18 seconds to go - down six points.

Wolters was fouled prior to the in-bounds pass by Greenwood. He widened the gap to 70-62. Williams wowed the fans with a 30-foot trey. UNM called time at the 13.2-second mark down 70-65. Greenwood forced a jump ball and the Lobos had another ghost of a chance. It faded. Williams missed on a drive and Wolters got the loose ball. The Lobos had their first loss.

First Half: South Dakota State 38, New Mexico 34

The Jacks did a good job of dictating the pace and keeping UNM from transition baskets. The Jacks posted leads of 11-5, 15-9, 23-15 and 38-34 at the half.

Wolters had 12 first-half points and six assists aided by a Jacks' team that shot 51.9 percent from the floor. Chad White was 3-of-3 from long range for South Dakota State.

The Lobos shot 37.5 percent with eight points from Snell and seven from Greenwood. The boards were even in the first half, 17-17. The Jacks went 7-of-14 from long range in the half and UNM went 4-of-14. Kirk had eight boards for UNM and Dykstra had six for South Dakota State.