Stevens: Lobos Look To Do The Same Things in Cruces Rematch With Aggies

Dec. 18, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - On The Road

Wednesday: 7 p.m. - New Mexico Lobos (11-0) at New Mexico State (5-5)
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB; AggieVision/Altitude/ESPN3/Watch ESPN GameTracker, Game Story, Complete Stats
Up Next: 12:30 p.m., Saturday (Dec. 22) -- South Dakota State at Lobos

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

There really are few secrets hovering around this re-do New Mexico turf war featuring Lobos, Aggies, pride and ego.

  • Aggie freshman center Sim Bhullar is tall and maybe taller than his 7-foot-5 listing. But he is not quick.

  • UNM's Kendall Williams can hurt the Aggies in many, many ways.

  • The Aggies aren't as good without injured 6-11 junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe, who is not expected to play Wednesday against the Lobos.

  • The Lobos' 7-foot Alex Kirk has the potential to become one of the best big men in the nation. Oh, yeah, he also can shoot the jumper.

  • The impressive statistics the Aggie brought into The Pit with them did not hold up against a Top 20 Lobo team playing on its home floor.

  • To beat the Lobos, you have to beat a whole lot of Lobos in a whole lot of different ways - which didn't happen for the Aggies this past Saturday in The Pit.

    The Lobos outshot the Aggies from the field, from the 3-point line and from the free-throw line. The Lobos won the battle of the glass, had fewer turnovers and more blocked shots.

    "We out-rebounded a really good team," said Alford of UNM's 37-33 edge on the glass in UNM's 73-58 win.

    The Lobos' game plan Wednesday night in the Pan American Center is simple enough: Do the same things. The Lobos don't have to make many adjustments -- yet.

    The Aggies have a lot of soul searching to do and probably need to work on their Xs and Os, too. They not only were outplayed, they were outworked.

    Obviously, the Aggies play better at home. They are 4-0 in Cruces and the Aggies have designated this rematch as a "Pack The Pan Am" promotion. They are giving away the NMSU's women's game Tuesday night vs. the Lobo women. You buy a men's ticket, you get a free ride on Tuesday.

    "We need to be able to go there and create our own energy and feel," said Williams of the journey into Aggie country.

    For sure, the Aggie men will not get a free ride on Wednesday. The Lobos are looking for a season's sweep and also are looking to protect their No. 16/17 ranking. The Aggies are looking to keep the egg off their face that comes with a UNM sweep.

    The Aggies didn't play good ball in The Pit, but that had a lot to do with the Lobos. Bandja Sy went 2-of-14 from the field and Tyrone Watson went 0-of-5 and the Aggies shot 32.8 percent from the floor - 26.7 percent in the second half.

    The Aggies come into Wednesday's game shooting 44 percent on the year. They are led by senior Daniel Mullings, who was the only Aggie to reach double figures in The Pit with 14 points. He was 5-of-10 from the floor.

    The Aggies were hurt in Albuquerque by the expected - Williams - and the unexpected: Chad Adams. Williams had 15 points, seven assists, two steals, no turnovers and eight boards. He was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line in an almost perfect game.

    The Aggies need to change Williams' numbers in Cruces. They also need to pay more attention to Adams, who had 13 points, 10 boards and a block on the 7-5 Bhullar. Adams is playing like a senior starter, which he is.

    "Chad's been terrific," said Alford. "The transformation in him, the light turning on in him, has been one of the more rewarding things since I've been here. You're talking about an individual who's played sparingly in three years and all of the sudden he's dropping double-doubles."

    Tony Snell (left) on defense.

    NMSU also was damaged by Snell, who had 10 points and four assists and by Kirk, who had 15 points, six boards and five blocks. Snell also is the expected while Kirk probably has risen above preseason expectations.

    Kirk's post moves have improved this season and he still has his jumper, which is encouraged by Alford. Kirk gives UNM a post that can be effective in the paint, but when he steps out to open the middle for UNM's dribble-drive offense, he can nail the jumper.

    "You have to guard (Kirk), not just on the blocks," said Alford.

    Kirk's five blocks against NMSU in The Pit were gravy. "Eleven blocks are a lot of blocks in a game," Alford said of UNM's total vs. NMSU. "And it came from a lot of people."

    Actually, nine of those blocks came from Kirk and Hugh Greenwood, who had four in an otherwise quiet game featuring no assists but no turnovers. The thing about the Lobos is that players who are quiet one night can rip apart a team on another night. This is a UNM team of impressive balance.

    "It's an unselfish group," said Williams. "If someone's feeling it, we're going to help him out and keep feeding him."

    A key for Wednesday's rematch will be one that doesn't show up on a stat sheet - honest effort. The Aggies were outworked in The Pit, but this time they are playing in front of their fans. Will they rise to the Lobos' level of blue-collar intensity?

    "Effort is really big for the whole team," said Adams. "When you go hard you just end up at the right place at the right time."

    The Lobos went hard at the Aggies in The Pit and ended up on the right side of the scoreboard. That's a big deal when Lobos play Aggies.

    "I think I understand it a little more," said Adams, a Highland High product, of the rivalry. "It's really important...."

    Said Williams: "It's a rivalry so there's a lot of feel behind it."