FORT WORTH – Do not go quietly into that good night, Dairese.
Rage, baby, rage.
Or something like that (sorry Dylan).
Who knows who, where and if the New Mexico men’s basketball team will be playing in two weeks? But Lobo point guard Dairese Gary is making sure his senior season doesn’t flame out before he burns every bit of fuel left in his tank.
On Saturday, Gary set a career high for points for a second straight game, scoring 32 while dishing out nine assists to lead UNM past TCU 80-70.
Gary has a remarkable six-game streak in which he has scored more points from his previous game while fighting to give his struggling team life before the upcoming Mountain West Conference tournament.
“He’s been shooting the ball more and trying to score more,” UNM coach Steve Alford says of his lone senior. “We’ve been going through a rut in shooting the basketball. We shot better (Saturday), got some baskets inside that helped free some things up. But Dairese senses that (the team’s shooting slump), and you see it on tape. We’ve got some guys open who aren’t shooting it well, and he decides to take it himself. So I’m sure he feels the pressure of that as well.”
The Lobos have been in a horrendous shooting slump during the season’s second half of league play, when opposing coaches adjust to one another. UNM struggled again Saturday — except for Gary. The Frogs (10-20, 1-14), losers of 12 straight, actually led 48-43 in the second half before Gary took control.
The-6-foot-2 Elkhart, Ind., product was 11-of-14 from the floor, 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 7-of-8 from the foul line. Without Gary, the Lobos went 18-of-39 from the floor (46.1 percent) and a miserable 3-of-15 from 3-point range (20.0 percent).
Junior post A.J Hardeman, who got his first start in 10 games, was the only other Lobo to have an all-around solid showing, hitting 5-of-7 shots for 14 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes.
But it was Gary who lifted the Lobos. And he says he will continue to do what’s necessary to prevent UNM from fading during his final games.
“You have to,” he says. “I just talked to Ro (former Lobo teammate Roman Martinez) the other day, and he said I’ve got to do whatever it takes. So we’re looking to make a bang these last two games, and going into the tournament.”
The Lobos (18-11, 6-8) visit seventh-ranked Brigham Young (27-2, 13-1) on Wednesday before closing the regular season at home on Saturday against Air Force (14-13, 5-9). UNM could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the league, but barring some huge upsets will be either the fifth or sixth seed in the MWC tournament in Las Vegas.
BENCHED AGAIN: Like UNM, TCU has jostled its lineup plenty of times this season and started its only two seniors — Greg Hill and Nikola Gacesa — on Saturday. That left Nikola Cerina and Amric Fields — two guys who have started a combined 24 games — coming off the bench, which helped the Horned Frog reserves whip the Lobos’ bench boys 36-6.
WEREN’T WE JUST HERE? The Lobos were the opponent for TCU’s senior night on Saturday, and will be BYU’s senior night oppostion on Wednesday in Provo, Utah.
For the second straight year.
“That’s some great prize for getting off a losing streak; getting Jimmer Fredette on his senior night,” Alford said after the Lobos’ snapped their four-game skid on Saturday.
The Lobos ruined BYU’s senior night last year, upsetting the Cougars 83-81 to capture the MWC regular season title. UNM has also given Fredette — a national player of the year candidate — and BYU its only blemish in league play this year. The Lobos beat the Cougars 86-77 last month at the Pit.
NOW YOU HELP? While the Lobos’ Ratings Percentage Index doesn’t give them any chance for NCAA Tournament consideration, they got a little RPI boost on Saturday. After all, how many teams could say they beat teams that upset both the No. 5 and No. 6 teams in the nation on Saturday?
New Mexico can.
On Saturday, BYU won 80-67 at sixth-ranked San Diego State while Colorado edged fifth-ranked Texas 91-89.
The Lobos beat Colorado 89-76 in December.
If nothing else, the games should help UNM get a better seed in the NIT, if it doesn’t win the MWC tournament.