Rout Boosts Lobos' MWC Chances By Mark Smith
Saturday, 21 February 2009 22:17 One down, at least four to go. The University of New Mexico's declaration of "Five Alive" got one-fifth easier Saturday as the Lobos pummeled San Diego State, 75-49, at the Pit.
The result moved both teams into a three-way tie with Brigham Young for second place in the Mountain West Conference at 8-4, two games behind Utah (10-2). BYU lost 75-74 at UNLV 75-74 on Saturday night.
The Lobos (17-10), who have four games remaining, have maintained all week they can't afford another loss in order to retain any hopes of a regular-season title and possible NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
"We've got (to win) four more games if we want to have a chance of the championship," said UNM junior Roman Martinez, who had 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and tied a career high with five 3s. "But we can't look past the first one coming up."
That would be TCU (14-13, 5-8). The Lobos play host to the Frogs on Tuesday.
The Aztecs (18-7) entered Saturday with senior forward Kyle Spain battling an illness that kept him out of the starting lineup. But their situation got far worse in a matter of seconds.
After Martinez made a 3-pointer less than one minute into the game, San Diego State sophomore standout Billy White - in an attempt to block the shot - crashed to the floor. The 6-foot-8 forward, who had hit 19 straight field goal attempts entering the game and was shooting 66.0 percent for the season, was on crutches with his left knee wrapped the rest of the day.
There was no immediate word on the extent of the injury.
Even without two of their stars on the floor, the Aztecs hit four of their first five shots as both teams came out cooking. The Lobos hit five of their first six field goal attempts and took a 13-10 lead just 3 1/2 minutes into the game.
While Spain would soon take the floor on his way to a team-high 18 points, senior star Lorrenzo Wade soon found his way to the bench. The 6-8 forward - who combined with Spain to score 51 points in the Aztecs' 81-76 win against UNM last month in San Diego - picked up three personal fouls in the opening half.
"When we figured out he had two, we decided to try to attack him," said UNM's Tony Danridge, who had a game-high 25 points. "(We wanted) to see if he was going to foul again or if he was going to let me go."
Not that Wade could stop Danridge from going anywhere.
The Lobo senior had two ferocious slam dunks and was 6-for-7 shooting on the way to 16 points in the first half. When Wade hit the bench with his third foul with about four minutes left in the half, the Aztecs were down just 27-24. They were still within 31-29 with just more than two minutes left in the period, but the Lobos went on a tear.
Danridge scored on back-to-back drives and Daniel Faris converted inside off a great feed from Martinez. With the crowd of 16,801 whipped into a frenzy and the Aztecs taking the ball in with nine seconds remaining on the shot clock and 19 on the game clock, UNM coach Steve Alford called a masterful timeout.
"The big thing, was to make sure we got the stop," Alford said. "I'm in the huddle, yelling about getting a defensive stop … And coach (Craig) Neal did a really good job making sure we were in some kind of organization (at the offensive end)."
The Lobos, looking like a nest of angry hornets attacking an invader, got the stop by forcing a 35-second violation. On the other end, Dairese Gary fired a pass to Martinez, who hit a 3 to make it 40-29 at the half.
"I always thought the last play of the half was really big, whether it's offense or defense," said Alford, who ran to the locker room pumping his fist. "This time it was even bigger, because we got a stop, a 3-point make, then coming out of halftime it's our ball."
The Aztecs briefly threatened in the second half, getting a chance to cut the count to five on Mehdi Cheriet's jumper with 14 minutes remaining. But the junior forward tossed up an airball and Danridge made a 3-pointer at the other end. UNM's Chad Toppert followed with a long jumper before Gary - who had shot three airballs on the day - got a 3. Toppert and freshman Phillip McDonald added 3s within minutes and the rout had commenced.
McDonald, who has been struggling in recent weeks, didn't take a shot in the first half but had 10 points in the second half and made his last four shots.
Faris had two points, a game-high 10 rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
SDSU, which was trying to become just the second team to beat the Lobos four straight times in the Pit, had a season-low for points - the fifth time that's happened to a UNM opponent in the Pit this MWC campaign - and shot 36.7 percent (18-for-49).
"They have become a much better defensive team, and I think that's a credit to Steve Alford and his staff," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "It's also a testament to the kids coming in and playing that way."
Thanks for posting!
Go Lobos! Go Erskine & Shump! Go Lucas! Go Cam!
Spain is a very talented player. and so are the rest of the Aztec team....However their coach leaves a lot to be desired year in and year out. He is able to recruit top-notch calibre players from within his immediate surroundings and still can't dominate the league. With all the talent that San Diego State has had over the years...Whew!!! What a shame. and Yes, I'm aware of his Championship team from Michigan. Still, I state my case. He's not a very good coach, period!.
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