Stevens: Lobos Look To Chomp Down on Nate Wolters & The Jackrabbits

Dec. 21, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit

Saturday: 12:30 p.m. - South Dakota State at Lobos - Bob King Floor
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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

In the wild, wolves dine on jackrabbits. It's that circle of life thing. In the Pit on Saturday, Steve Alford's pack of Lobos plan to circle a Jackrabbit named Nate Wolters while a pack of NBA scouts take in the chase.

It's going to be wild.

If you are a Lobo fan who has not yet purchased a ticket to UNM's 12:30 p.m., tip with South Dakota State, you had better hurry before another NBA scout slips into your spot.

The Pit will be a pro scout hot spot on Saturday as the NBA eyes focus on Wolters, Kendall Williams, Tony Snell and any other Lobo or Jackrabbit on the court who happens to show the right stuff.

Wolters might be the main attraction on Saturday for a number of reasons:

1. He is NBA good.
2. He is a senior about to become draft eligible.
3. He likely will be guarded, at times, by UNM's Williams, one of the top junior guards in the nation, who is capable of throwing out NBA-quality defense.

"We can put Hugh (Greenwood) on him. We can put Kendall on him," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "We can come off the bench with different people. I don't think it's going to be one guy guarding Wolters."

It's probably fair to say Wolters is the heart of the South Dakota State teams that invades The Pit on Saturday. He was an Associated Press All-American honorable mention as a junior. He was the Summit League Championship MVP - all league, all district, and on and on.

Wolters can go off on a team. He hit 30 in a loss at Alabama and 25 vs. Hofstra. Of course, that's what makes the 6-foot-4 Wolters' visit to The Pit so attractive to the dozen or so NBA scouts who have reserved spots.

It's very, very difficult to go off on an Alford-coached team. What can Wolters do against the Lobos?

"We make it hard for you to score in the ways you normally like to score," said Alford.

The Jackrabbits of Brookings, S.D., like it when Wolters scores. They like to put the ball in his hands because he can make shots and make passes.

A season back, Wolters, who ended the year with 1,628 career points and 476 career assists, had 11 games with one or fewer turnovers. He is smart and crafty - with a jump shot.

"He's a very good player. He uses the ball screen well and is crafty with the dribble," said Alford. "He has the ball in his hands an awful lot."

Wolters averages 19.3 points and 37.1 minutes a game. Obviously, the Jackrabbits like their senior on the court. He has good help, too.

There is a trio of Jackrabbits who produce most of the team's points and boards: Wolters (19.3, 6.5), the 6-foot-8 Jordan Dykstra (13.2, 6.7) and the 6-foot-7 Tony Fiegen (10.4, 6.5). Guards Brayden Carlson averages 9.3 points and Chad White checks in with a 7.8 average.

"They are a dangerous team," said Alford. "They are a better version of Indiana State. They can hurt you inside. They can hurt you outside. Their bigs can go out and shoot it."

Obviously, the Jackrabbits need a big-time game from Wolters in a big-time hostile arena. They also need Dyskstra and Fiegen to perform inside. The Lobos have a size advantage.

The Jackrabbits surely have to worry about UNM's Williams. "Kendall is playing at a very high level and I think he's one of the best guards in the country," said Alford.

The Jackrabbits also have to worry about what Alford can throw at them inside with the 7-foot Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow. The Jacks might have to give more minutes to the 6-9 Marcus Heemstra.

The Twin Towers in this event come from New Mexico. South Dakota State will try and counter with movement and motion, looking for open shots away from UNM's height. The Jackrabbits probably need to get hot from 3-point range.

"We have to go hard," said Alford. "We can't let them get loose to where they are getting 40 points a half. We have to be able to defend.

"They have five guys who can make shots and score. This isn't a team you can play off somebody and help (on defense)."

The Jackrabbits are coming off a 76-49 slap down at Belmont. Belmont (Tennessee) broke out of a 37-37 tie with an 18-0 run. Belmont outscored SDS 36-16 in the paint. The Jackrabbits went 3-of-21 from 3-point range. Wolters scored only 13 points.

Belmont, No. 10 in the Mid-Major Top 25, or their arena is not at the same level as No. 16 New Mexico and its Pit. The Jackrabbits might be helped, a tiny bit, by playing in The Pit in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

But that was not against the Lobos or UNM's hostile crowd. The Jackrabbits not only face a pack of motivated wolves. They face the Lobos in the Lobos' den.

Really, this will be a different Pit circling the Jackrabbits.