No. 16 SDSU tops New Mexico 75-70
Phillip McDonald: A game-high 20 points in loss
Phillip McDonald: A game-high 20 points in loss
TRM Staff Writer
Posted Jan 19, 2012


Wednesday night brought the biggest game, the biggest crowd and the biggest opponent – in terms of ranking -- the UNM men’s team had seen in the 2011-12-basketball season. In the end the marquee match-up in a sold out and often loud University Arena was defined by a pair of runs as 16-ranked San Diego State came into The Pit and took a well-earned 75-70 road win home with them.

The Aztecs defense threw the New Mexico offense out of sync with tough man-to-man defense then took advantage as the offensive frustration worked its way into the Lobos’ marrow and caused several defensive lapses in the second half.

SDSU (16-2, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) turned the game around in the second half by engineering a 15-0 to wrest the lead – and the game – away from the Lobos.

“It was a tough game for us – I give San Diego State a lot of credit,” said head coach Steve Alford. “They are a very good basketball team. I thought they really guarded and we took way too many three-point shots. When you take 30 three’s in a game you better make a bucket load of them. I thought they did a really good job defensively. We had a couple of droughts, one in the first half and one in the second half and in those droughts we didn’t guard very well and that really affected us.”
It as a frustrating end for a UNM team that started the game on a 10-0 run and looked to be on the same kind of path that lead to the team’s similar home win against Missouri State in December.

Instead, the game became a déjà vu of a different kind.

“(Tonight’s game) had a mirror image of the game against New Mexico State here at home and we obviously lost that one,” said Alford. “Our offense got stagnant and we took too many deep shots instead of continuing to attack the basket and that affected us because we didn’t get to the free throw line. We only had 10 free throw attempts, which might be a season low.”
“I just didn’t think we attacked offensively and we settled for shots which affected our defense, which is immature,” said Alford. “We haven’t shown that in about two months, but tonight we showed that in the second half.”

Playing a four-guard offense to UNM’s 3-guard, 2-forward line-up, SDSU countered UNM’s initial burst but UNM was able to retain the lead until the closing moments of the first half, when the Aztecs managed an 8-2 run to take a 30-29 lead. The Lobos answered with a Drew Gordon jumper to secure a 31-30 halftime lead.

We got off to a good start at the beginning of the game,” said senior Phillip McDonald, who scored a career-high and game-high 20 points Wednesday night. “I wouldn’t say they were more physical than us. They out-rebounded us in the end. That run in the second half – they showed a lot of poise by coming back. We have to be better than that. That 15-0 run towards the end of the second half really hurt us. We have to counter that. We have to do better than that and we have to do a better job at the other end.”

UNM started the second half on a 9-4 run to take a 40-34 lead with 16:05 left in regulation. SDSU would cut the lead to 40-39 on a made three-pointer and an easy lay-up by transfer guard Xavier Thames, who led all scorers with 22 points for the game.

UNM held the lead but lost it on a three-pointer by reserve guard LaBradford Franklin, who put up SDSU for good 49-48 with 11:39 left. The Lobos then went on their swoon, as the Aztecs mounted its15-0 run as UNM went 0-for-9 from the field over the next 5:24.

New Mexico tried to mount a comeback but seemed to stall along the way. Phillip McDonald hit a trey with 44 seconds and Tony Snell hit his only shot of the night with 30 seconds left to give UNM hope and trim the lead to 71-65. But SDSU hot 9-of-10 free throws in the final minute to thwart a Lobo comeback.

Senior Drew Gordon finished with 16 points and eight rebounds while facing double and even triple-teams for much of the game and sophomore Kendall Williams scored 15 points, pulled in eight rebounds and finished with 5 assists in the loss. Jamal Fenton, who again started for the Lobos at point guard, added 10 points and six assists on the night. Freshman Hugh Greenwood returned from his ankle injury but played only 10 minutes, pulling in three rebounds and dishing three assists but shooting 0-for-3 to go scoreless for the night.

The Lobos now travel to UNLV Saturday night with the tough assignment of facing a 15-3 Rebel squad that pummeled visiting TCU 101-78 Wednesday night to pull to 1-1 in MWC play and 17-3 overall. New Mexico faces an uphill battle having lost a home game to one of the MWC’s title contenders. Taking back a road win at UNLV, SDSU or Colorado State, which stands at 2-0 in conference, will be essential if UNM expects to win the regular season title.

“We probably have the toughest environment that we have to go into (Thomas and Mack) and they (UNLV) are outstanding,” said Alford. “They are a really good and deep basketball team so we have our hands full. This was a difficult week and it did not start out well for us so we have to pick things up and make some adjustments and play better on Saturday.

“It makes it very difficult in the league race when you lose games at home and loosing this one puts our back against the wall early in the conference race, and now we have to make up for that on the road,” said Alford.



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