Stevens: Senior Day Could Bring A Mountain Title To All Lobos

March 2, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Saturday: 2:05 p.m. (MT), Boise State (13-15, 3-10) vs. New Mexico (23-6, 9-4)
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Is there really any better way to end a regular-season? Just consider a few things on the line or happening in The Pit Saturday when Boise State comes calling:

  • A win would hand Steve Alford's Lobos their third Mountain West title in four years.
  • A win would give the Lobos 24 wins to take into the MW tourney in Las Vegas.
  • A win coupled with a San Diego State loss at TCU would hand the Lobos the outright Mountain title and the No. 1 seed for the MW tourney.
  • It's Senior Day and The Pit gets a chance to thank three special Lobos - A.J. Hardeman, Phillip McDonald and Drew Gordon -- for their good work over the years.

    For sure, the title is the first thing on the minds of both the Lobos and The Pit. It's nice to win titles and wear championship rings. You have to figure the Lobos are a strong bet to at least share the crown with SDSU.

    The Lobos pounded Boise State 65-49 in potato country and Boise State is 1-10 on the road with a breakthrough at Air Force.

    And when you throw a title in front of Alford's Lobos, you have to figure they will be focused and ornery.

    The Pit probably will have two battle cries on Saturday: Go Lobos. Go Frogs. If UNM ties with San Diego State, the Aztecs and the Lobos share the honors, but the Aztecs take the No. 1 seed into the Mountain West tourney in Las Vegas.

    That most likely would place the Lobos on the same side of the bracket as UNLV and most likely looking at a semifinal game with the Rebs on the Rebs home turf. The Rebs are tough at home. Not so tough on the road.

    Back to Saturday.

    The Lobos didn't have much trouble taming the Broncos 65-49 on Feb. 4 at Taco Bell Arena. UNM used a 13-0 run in the first half to go up 23-12 and used a 13-3 run in the second half to build a 15-point cushion.

    The Broncos have been juggling things around trying to find a winning lineup and have used 13 different combos during the 2011-12 season. All 12 Broncos have started at least one game. Only two other teams nationally have started every player who has seen game minutes.

    The Broncos are not a particularly quick team nor are they tall. Their last starting lineup went 5-11, 6-2, 6-3, 6-6 and 6-7. The Lobos will have an advantage inside with the 6-9 Gordon.

    An important aspect of this game is tempo. When Boise State can control the tempo, it has the shooters to hang around. The Broncos won at Air Force in a favorable tempo. They kept TCU and San Diego State out of transition and lost 58-56 at SDSU and lost 54-52 at TCU. Boise State is 3-11 over the past 14 games. UNM is 8-2 over the past 10 games.

    The Broncos have to hope for the same things that other Pit enemies hope for. They need to shoot well, hope the Lobos don't shoot well, and stop the Lobos from running and dunking. And watch out for those treys!

    If the Broncos can't do those things, the Lobos' Senior Day should be perfect. A win would put a third regular-season championship ring on the fingers of McDonald and Hardeman.

    That duo also is one win away from tying the UNM mark for most career wins (98) by a scholarship Lobo. Dairese Gary broke and set the record a season ago. McDonald and Hardeman can take over the top spot with a postseason win in Vegas or in the NCAA dance.

    Hardeman has played in 131 games as a Lobo and is looking at his 91st start on Saturday. A few injuries pushed McDonald behind Hardeman in playing time. He has played in 127 games, but has 100 starts - only two this season.

    Gordon pointed out that he earned his first Mountain West title ring while sitting on the bench as a redshirt transfer from UCLA. He has a more active role in chasing the 2012 title.

    Gordon was named the preseason MW Player of The Year and is still a strong candidate to win that award at the season's end. He carries a double-double average at Boise State, scoring at an 12.8 clip and pulling down an average of 10.7 boards per game.