Wednesday, February 6, 2008
No Disputing the Result: Lobos Overwhelm Rams
By Mark Smith
Journal Staff Writer
OK, considering the competition, super would be an overstatement.
But the University of New Mexico men's basketball team was pretty darn good in a 91-51 demolition of hapless Colorado State on Tuesday night in the Pit.
While most of the country anxiously awaited the outcome of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries, the 12,422 in the Pit got the results it wanted quickly. The Lobos (17-6) raced to a 7-0 lead and never looked back to even their Mountain West Conference record at 4-4 at the league's midway point.
It was the Lobos' biggest win against the Rams and their most lopsided league victory in 11 years.
"Obviously, it was a very key win for us," UNM coach Steve Alford said. "I thought the start of the game was going to be crucial. Any time you've been away for two weeks ... and gotten beaten up in both games, I was most concerned about how our mind-set was going to be."
The Lobos were hammered at both Brigham Young and UNLV in their past two games, trailing by at least 30 points in each.
But the Rams (6-16, 0-8) have seldom even been competitive in conference games, and this one was really out of hand.
"So far, this has been the biggest game of the season," said UNM senior J.R. Giddens, who was 9-of-11 and had 19 points and seven rebounds. "Kind of a game that we needed to make a statement and play some defense; set the tone and pick up the intensity early. Get things back clicking."
Giddens clicked from the get-go, hitting four jumpers one a 3-pointer in the opening eight minutes as UNM grabbed a 21-8 lead. After CSU closed to 28-18, Giddens hit another jumper and had a vicious ally-oop slam off a feed from Dairese Gary.
Gary had 12 points and six assists without a turnover. He's had 16 assists and one turnover in his past four games.
Chad Toppert who didn't start for the first time in 14 games, but had a career-high 22 points added a pair of 3s as UNM closed the half on 22-6 run to lead 50-24.
Of course UNM had big first-half leads before losing to both San Diego State and Texas Christian University, so it didn't get complacent.
"On the board (at halftime), all we put up was '24-10 against San Diego State' and 'up 18 with 18 minutes left against TCU,' '' Alford said. "It's a year of learning, and I thought our guys did a great job of coming out at half."
Any hopes CSU may have had of climbing back into the game immediately dissipated under a 15-0 New Mexico barrage to open the second half. Gary hit back-to-back 3s to get things started and Roman Martinez capped it with a three-point play.
The crowd, which was pretty subdued much of the first half with the exception of some taunts and creative signs directed at official David Hall woke up during the burst, getting louder on each basket. But one of the biggest ovations of the night came with 13:32 left in the game, on a jumper by the Rams' Marcus Walker.
Those were CSU's first points of the half, allowing the fans to finally sit down. Tradition calls for the crowd to stand and clap until both teams score each half.
Hall may have wished the fans never got to sit, because once they did much of the student section's attention returned to the referee.
This was Hall's first appearance in the Pit since his controversial whistle in the Lobos' 74-72 loss at TCU last month. Down 72-71 with 13 seconds remaining, TCU appeared to be trying to call timeout. But the Horned Frogs didn't have one to call, which should have resulted in a technical foul.
Hall instead called an injury timeout, allowing TCU to hit a 3-pointer for the win with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Fans had an assortment of signs, one in which had a timeout counter with Hall's name on it.
There was no controversy this time with Hall.
The Lobos, who led 73-28 nine minutes into the second half, were 32-of-59 from the floor (54.2 percent), 12-of-20 from 3-point range (60.0 percent) and a season-best 83.3 percent from the foul line (15-of-18).
Johnnie Harris, who scored just seven points combined in UNM's first seven MWC games, had seven in the first half and nine for the game.
CSU got 11 points from Walker, who entered the game averaging more than 18, and 10 from Flynn Clayman.
UNM's Monquel Pegues, who crashed to the floor in the first half and had to be taken to the locker room, never returned to the game. UNM officials said he lost a tooth but had no serious injury.
Ironically, it was Hall who called an injury timeout on the play.
New Mexico 91 Colorado State 51
Saturday: Wyoming at New Mexico, 7 p.m., the Pit TV: The Mtn. Radio: KKOB-AM (770)