Stevens: Lobos Try To Avoid a Crack With Visit to Boise State

Feb. 3, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road

Saturday: New Mexico Lobos at Boise State
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The cracks that teams keep stepping over in the first-half run of the Mountain West men's basketball race could have easily placed the Lobos atop the standing as they head to Boise State.

Now, on Saturday, the Lobos have to step over a crack called the Boise State Broncos.

Based on the scores the Lobos have thrown out in conference play (after UNLV and SDSU), the Lobos should clear this crack like a Joe Franklin Lobo long jumper leaping a sidewalk.

But we'll wait and see. The Broncs have a few kicks left in them.

The UNLV Rebs and the San Diego State Aztecs are atop the MW with 5-1 marks. The Rebs avoided two cracks by besting Boise State and Air Force in overtime. The Aztecs caught their toes badly at Colorado State and fell by 17 points. San Diego State avoided another crack this week when Boise visited and the Aztecs held on for a 58-56 win.

It's an interesting race.

Those two Boise State efforts - OT vs. UNLV, two-point loss at SDSU - also should help Alford get his Lobos' attention. The Broncos have some firepower and they play well in Taco Bell Arena (12,542) where they have posted a 9-3 mark this season. Boise is 0-8 on the road.

Alford's Lobos play the road well and road wins often come to teams that honor defense, honor the ball and are disciplined at both ends of the court. UNM's 81-42 beat down of Air Force in Clune Arena was a classic example of road-warrior mentality. It was Air Force's worst home loss ever.

The Mountain West concludes the first half on Saturday. The Lobos must jump a crack at Boise and UNLV could have a tough game at Wyoming. The Cowboys can be very good. UNLV often relies on its raw talent to win games. If that talent level isn't shooting well, the Rebs can run into trouble.

The other MW games on Saturday are Air Force at Colorado State and San Diego State hosting TCU.

The Lobos could have been helped by other teams, but they are doing a good job of helping themselves. Coach Alford challenged his players to a 13-day stretch of total commitment, total focus and lots of hard work.

That stretch included four games that would carry UNM into the second half of the MW race. UNM has won three of them and close the stretch Saturday at Boise.

"This thing isn't over yet," said Alford is his 13-day Big Push.

OK, the push ends with the Broncos. Then another push begins: the second half of the race which leads to the Mountain West Tournament. But first Boise and "first" is the perfect word to describe this meeting. It's a bit of a surprise, but for two programs not too far away geographically, this is the first ever meeting between Lobos and Broncos.

Boise State is 10-11 on the year, 0-8 on the road and 9-3 in Taco Bell Arena. Like most team, they work hard to defend their turf. The Broncos have a lone gunner in double figures in Anthony Drmic, who scores at a 12.9 clip. He also is their top board man with a modest 4.8 average.

The Lobos have three players in double figures in Tony Snell (12.8), Drew Gordon (12.4) and Kendall Williams (12.0). Gordon paces UNM on the boards with 10.5 a game. Gordon gives UNM a go-to player in the paint which opens up the edge for UNM's talented perimeter guns.

The Lobos also have an extremely productive bench behind Jamal Fenton (7.4 ppg), Phillip McDonald (7.2), Demetrius Walker (6.9) and Chad Adams (3.7). UNM's bench outpointed the UNM starters in the Air Force romp.

"Our bench is a key for us," said Alford.

A key for UNM in Boise is to get off to good starts in both halves. The Broncos are winless in the Mountain at 0-8, but they have been hanging around in most games. They also lost by two points to TCU. On paper, the Broncos don't look so tough. On the court, they aren't yet ready for the pasture.

Boise State is tough at home and had a 15-game home winning streak snapped by Air Force, 74-59 - the Broncos' worst MW loss so far.

After UNM's visit to Boise, the Lobos have a week off before playing host to Wyoming the following Saturday in The Pit. After that - it's UNLV and SDSU. Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

Coach Steve Alford




NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2011-12 ROSTER/STATISICS

Possible StartersHTPositionSeason Statistics
21 - Tony Snell 6-7Wing12.8 Pts. - 3.1 Rebs
32 - Drew Gordon 6-9Post12.4 Pts. - 10.5 Rebs.
10 - Kendall Williams 6-3Guard12.0 Pts. - 4.3 Asts..
00 - A.J. Hardeman 6-8Forward4.3 Pts. - 3.8 Rebs.
03 - Hugh Greenwood 6-3Guard5.7 Pts. - 2.8 Asts.

Head Coach:Steve Alford
The NM BenchHTPositionSeason Statistics
13 - Jamal Fenton 5-9Guard7.4 Pts. - 2.8 Asts.
40 - Demetrius Walker 6-2Guard6.9 Pts. - 2.7 Rebs.
23 - Phillip McDonald 6-5Guard7.2 Pts. - 1.7 Rebs.
04 - Chad Adams 6-6Wing3.7 Pts. - 1.7 Rebs.
41 - Cameron Bairstow 6-9Post3.9 Pts. - 3.7 Rebs.
05 - Dominique Dunning 6-4Guard1.8 Pts. - 1.0 Rebs.
02 - Chris Perez 6-1Guard0.5 Pts. - 0.0 Rebs.