Stevens: Alford's Lobos Hope to Jam UIC in Paradise Jam Tournament

Nov. 15, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Vs. University Illinois-Chicago

When/Where: 2 :05 p.m. (MT), Friday - St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB; CBS Sports Network

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

This New Mexico Lobos men's basketball schedule is really challenging - on Lobo fans.

First, the Lobos tip off at midnight in The Pit with Davidson College taking away so much, too much, beauty sleep. No wonder the Lobo crowd was grouchy with a few 1 a.m. whistles that went against the Lobos!

Now, on Friday, the Lobos are in the tropical wonderment of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and tipping off at 2:05 p.m. (MT) with UIC in something called the Paradise Jam.

So, is Friday a sick day at work? A half-day of vacation? A really long lunch?

Of course, GoLobos.com would never recommend such things. That recommendation probably would be an NCAA violation. We'll check that one out in the NCAA manual.

But the game is on the tube, CBS Sports Network, and also on KKOB radio, so there are ways....

And all games in the Paradise Jam not shown on CBS Sports Network can be picked up live - and free - on ParadiseJam.com and Facebook.com/ParadiseJam1.

On paper, the game doesn't look to be the thriller that was staged in The Pit when Davidson rolled to a 16-point lead and then wilted to a second-half Lobo rally.

The Flames have a nice team and made better with two transfers: senior center Josh Crittle and sophomore guard Joey Miller.

The Flames opened with a 59-52 home win over UC Riverside. Crittle and Miller gave the Flames a potent inside-outside punch and combined to score 29 points. Miller came off the bench to score 14 and Crittle powered for 15 adding seven boards.

The Flames played only eight players and only six more than 20 minutes. Lobo Coach Steve Alford will have a wave of talent in his attempt to douse the Flames, although speedster Jamal Fenton will not play - benched for three games by the NCAA.

That probably won't matter just like it didn't matter vs. Davidson. UNM is loaded on the edge behind veteran returners: Hugh Greenwood, Demetrius Walker, Tony Snell, and Kendall Williams. Snell had 25 vs. Davidson and Williams had 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

There is a good chance that the Lobos can wear down the Flames much like they did Davidson, although the time of the game shouldn't be a factor. The Lobos won't have The Pit either. But the Lobos will be a difficult team to run with in Albuquerque or on an island.

The Flames are guard heavy, too, and like to run. They like to shoot from the edge, too. They went 8-of-23 vs. Riverside and went 13-of-15 from the line. Miller went 4-of-6 from 3-point land. UIC lost the rebound battle 40-to-29.

The Flames should have their hands full inside with UNM's combination of Cameron Bairstow and 7-foot Alex Kirk. That duo combined for 23 points and 11 rebounds vs. Davidson. It was a nice combination and Bairstow actually had an off-night shooting going 1-of-5 from the floor.

The Flames did a similar thing to Riverside that Davidson did to UNM. Davidson went up 10-0 on the Lobos. The Flames were hot out of the gate and went up 14-2 on Riverside. Hayden Humes paced that start with nine points, including two 3-pointers.

UIC also took control of the game with a 10-2 run in the second half to go up 40-27. When the game got close at the end, the Flames hit their free throws.

UIC returns four starters from the 8-22 team of 2011-12. The Flames have that foursome of experience - plus the 6-foot-9 Crittle and the 6-3 Miller, who transferred in. The Flames might not have the depth that UNM has, but they have experience.

Crittle is a big addition inside. He played one season at Oregon and two seasons at UCF. He didn't have to sit out a season as a graduate-school transfer in pursuit of a degree not offered at UCF.

He is a solid center, but not known to be a dominate center. He averaged 4.7 points and 2.9 rebound in his junior year at UCF.

Two other Flames to watch on the perimeter are 6-1 Gary Talton and 6-2 Daniel Barnes. Talton had 10 points, seven assists and four steals against UC Riverside. He is strong with the ball and a good penetrator. He is UIC top returning scorer (11.6) followed by Barnes (10.4). Probably the key to controlling UIC's offense is to control Talton.

Paradise Jam Facts: The tourney is being played at the University of the Virgin Islands. The tourney runs Friday through Monday. ... The opening round games are Mercer vs. George Mason, Illinois-Chicago vs. New Mexico, Wake Forest vs. Connecticut and Quinnipiac vs. Iona. ... The Sunday semis and Monday's championship and consolation games will be aired by CBS Sports Network. ... UNM won 28 games last year, Mercer won 27, Iona won 25, George Mason won 24, and Connecticut won 20. ... The UConn Huskies are the only ranked team in the field. ..