Stevens: Lobos Seed Payback For Loss at SDSU & For The Pit

Feb. 26, 2013

New Mexico Men's Basketball - Mountain West - In The Pit

Wednesday: 8:15 p.m. (MT) - San Diego State (20-7, 8-5) at No. 14/14 New Mexico Lobos (23-4, 10-2 MW) - Bob King Floor (15,411)
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The payback factor is front and center. The question of Kendall Williams maybe repeating his 46-point monster game isn't an issue.

Those monster defenders from San Diego State are the issue. They held the entire New Mexico team - Williams included - to 34 points in San Diego. It was one of those days the Lobos probably couldn't have hit the ocean with a stone.

Especially with the Jaws-like Aztecs' defense chomping down on Lobos from every angle.

But things change and so does the site. It's Pit time.

"We don't want to give up any wins in here; try to protect the house," said Chad Adams, who joins co-senior Jamal Fenton in their final two Pit games. "It (loss at SDSU) left a really bad taste in everybody's mouth. We're not going to give up anything in here. Not easy anyway.

"It's going to be a war."

Really, that's what Lobo fans want to see. This isn't the Sisters of The Poor coming to town. This is the San Diego State Aztecs who, probably along with the UNLV Rebels, are the Lobos nastiest Mountain West rival.

That's because the Aztecs and the Rebels are quick, talented, athletic and darn good.

That right there is enough reason to get The Pit and the Lobos on a righteous high. Then you toss in what happened in San Diego.

"It's good that San Diego State is coming in here," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "They hammered us in game one. We got embarrassed. We don't feel good about it

"They were tougher than we were. They were more physical than we were. They have won the last two times they have been in The Pit. That doesn't happen."

Yep, the Lobos have a whole lot of motivation for this one. There is payback on the line. There is the pride of The Pit. There is a Mountain West title to win.

The Lobos are in great shape with a two-game lead over Colorado State, but mathematics say the Lobos can still lose this race - or even slip into a kiss-your-sister tie.

The Lobos don't want to be kissing any Rams from Fort Collins.

"We don't want to share it," said Alford. "This group has earned the right to be the conference champs. They have to finish it now."

The earning part isn't yet over. The Lobos play host to Wyoming on Saturday in The Pit and finish up next week at Nevada and at Air Force. There obviously are no easy games in this conference, but the Wyoming (4-9), Nevada (3-9), Air Force (6-6) finish brings three MW teams that do not have currently have winning marks in the league race.

The Lobos can earn no worse than a tie for the MW title by beating SDSU and Wyoming. "We know if we win both, we are league champs," said Alford. "That's the drive of this team this week."

This week it's drive for the guaranteed title. And Wednesday night it's try to drive over the Aztecs. That game has meaning all by itself. You really don't need trophies on the line when Aztecs and Lobos war. The pride drive will kick into high gear.

These teams probably hate losing to each other more than they like beating each other.

"We are very excited about this game on Wednesday," said Alford.

The Aztecs are 8-5 and 21-7 overall and can play the game at a high level - and sometimes not so high. They were sky high in San Diego holding UNM to 25 percent shooting. The Aztecs went up by 14 at the half and kept pulling away.

That 34 point total was the lowest ever by an Alford-coached team and the lowest UNM total since a 34-32 Jan. 31, 1976 loss at Utah - in a slow-down game with no shot clock.

Embarrassing? Well, that's what the Lobos say.

"They beat us in transition and they beat us on the boards," said Alford. "And because of those two things, we got beat in the paint."

The Lobos had some ugly - game losing - numbers in San Diego. They lost the glass battle 41-26. They were outscored 32-to-8 in the paint with Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow combining to go 2-of-10 from the floor. UNM had 17 turnovers and only went to the line 11 times. UNM got beat off the bench 14-4.

Basically, UNM got beat.

The Aztecs played well. The Lobos did not play well on offense, but their defensive effort wasn't that shabby. The Lobos allowed only two Aztecs to climb into double figures: J.J. O'Brien with 12 and Jamaal Franklin with 10. The Aztecs only scored 55 points at home.

But the Aztecs hammered the glass and hammered UNM with pressure, face-attacking, defense. That's part of what the Lobos plan to do Wednesday in The Pit.

To the team that embarrassed them in San Diego. To the team that has won two straight in The Pit. To the only team in the Mountain West that has a chance to sweep the Lobos in 2013.

"I'm not looking to be swept by anybody," said Adams.

Yep, the line in the sand has been drawn. Maybe this time, Jaws is on the Lobo side of that line.



NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2012-13 ROSTER/STATISICS

Probable StartersHTPositionSeason Statistics
10 - Kendall Williams 6-3Guard14.4 Pts. - 4.6 Asts.
21 - Tony Snell 6-7Wing11.5 Pts. - 2.8 Asts.
53- Alex Kirk 7-0Center11.4 Pts. - 8.0 Rebs.
03 - Hugh Greenwood 6-3Guard7.7 Pts. - 5.1 Rebs.
41 - Cameron Bairstow 6-9Post8.5 Pts. - 5.3 Rebs.

The NM BenchHTPositionSeason Statistics
04 - Chad Adams 6-6Forward5.0 Pts. - 3.5 Rebs.
13 - Jamal Fenton 5-9Guard4.0 Pts. - 1.4 Asts.
40 - Demetrius Walker 6-2Guard5.0 Pts. - 1.2 Rebs.
01 - Cleveland Thomas 6-3Guard1.0 Pts. - 0.7 Rebs.
23 - Nick Banyard 6-8Forward0.9 Pts. - 1.6 Rebs.
02 - Chris Perez 6-1Guard1.0 Pts. - 0.0 Rebs.
24 - Kory Alford 6-4Guard0.1 Pts. - 0.1 Rebs.

Coaches: Steve Alford (head), Craig Neal, Duane Broussard, Drew Adams