New Mexico now is 14-9 for the season and 5-3 in MWC play. Wyoming fell to 14-8 and 3-5.
And there's bad news for New Mexico's conference opponents. The Lobos' defense, already the best in the league, is getting better. Coach Steve Alford said his team has been working hard in practice, and continues to improve defensively.
"I'm very pleased with our team," Alford said. "To hold (Wyoming) to 35% shooting (and) 57 points -- their lowest of the season -- is huge."
The Lobos' good defense went hand-in-hand with some very good offense. UNM hit 30 of 58 field goal attempts for 51.7%, which included cashing in half of their 22 three-point shots. Alford also lauded his team for turning the ball over just eight times, compared to 14 turnovers for Wyoming. "It was just a really good performance by a lot of guys tonight," Alford said.
Senior Chad Toppert led New Mexico's scoring with 17 points. The Cowboys opened with a man-to-man defense, and when they swiched to a zone, Toppert began raining threes on them. The Lobos were up by just three points when Toppert (aka "The Zone Buster") hit three treys in a row. That put UNM comfortably ahead by 29-14 and the Lobos cruised home from there.
Toppert finished the night with 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. He was aided and abetted by three teammates in double figures. Roman Martinez scored 15 points and snared five rebounds. Tony Danridge had 11 points, several of them on acrobatic slam dunks, plus six rebounds and three assists. Post Daniel Faris also scored 11 points, and had a game-leading eight rebounds.
Wyoming's scoring was paced by senior guard Sean Ogirri with 16 points. Afam Muojeke (pronounced uh-FAM moo-JEK-ee for you aspiring sportscasters) and Brandon Ewing each pitched in 13.
Ewing, a senior guard leading the MWC in scoring with an 18.2 points per game average, wore three different Lobos like another game jersey. UNM guards Dairese Gary, Nate Garth and Jonathan Wills took turns guarding Ewing, effectively throttling a big part of the Cowboys offense.
Gary said after the game that Ewing, known for "trash talking" to his opponents, became increasingly frustrated but never stopped talking. But Gary said Ewing's comments weren't obscene or over-the-line insulting. "Mostly, he just made me laugh," said Gary. That'll happen when your team is comfortably ahead.
Statistically the Lobos won virtually every battle. The teams were almost even at the free throw line, with UNM hitting on 15 of 17 and Wyoming netting 14 of 19. The Lobos outrebounded their taller opponents 36-25, and one of the results was outscoring the Cowboys in the paint , 32 to 16. New Meixco also scored 16 of its points off Wyoming's 14 turnovers.
The crowd of 13,081 went home happy, and so did the Lobo statisticians who gleefully noted that the win marked the fourth home game in a row that UNM held its opponents to their lowest scores of the season. And the stats-keepers also had good news about the Lobos' offense: all five of the team's MWC wins have been by a winning margin of 21.6 points.
Finally, from the "No teammate is forgotten Dept.," New Mexico's two walk-on freshmen, Chris Johansen and Dione Williams, have not been completely ignored. They have played a grand total of three minutes so far, but the two guards were featured in living color on the UNM game program Tuesday night.
New Mexico remains at home to begin the second half of the MWC season, hosting UNLV at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7. The Lobos almost upset the Runnin' Rebels in Las Vegas, losing that road game by just 58-60. Wyoming will host Utah in a 2 p.m. game on Saturday.
NOTES AND QUOTES PROVIDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
New Mexico Men's Basketball Postgame Notes
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009
The Pit / Bob King Court, Albuquerque, N.M.
Final Score: New Mexico 86, Wyoming 57
Records: New Mexico 14-9, 5-3 MWC; Wyoming 14-8, 3-5 MWC
• New Mexico's five MWC wins have been by 25, 19, 17, 18 and 29, an average winning margin of 21.6 points…UNM is 6-0 when scoring 80+ points this season and 8-0 when winning by 16 or more points
• New Mexico held Wyoming to season-lows in points scored (57) and field goals made (17)…the Cowboys 20 points in the first half is their lowest total in any half this season
• The last four visitors to The Pit have all been held to a season low for points (Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Wyoming)
• New Mexico is shooting 50.8% (125- 246) from the floor the past five games… UNM has made 77.2% (149-193) of its free throws the past 8 games
• UNM made 11-of-22 3-pointers tonight…the Lobos are now shooting 43.8% from 3-point in MWC games and 45.9% in the last seven league games…the overall season percentage is now 39.4%
• New Mexico improved to 5-0 when committing fewer than 10 turnovers…the Lobos committed only eight on the night
• The Lobos outscored Wyoming 30-10 the final 10:51 of the first half, hitting 11 of 15 FGs…seven of those were 3s, five by Chad Toppert
• The Lobos improve to 11-2 in the Pit and 4-0 in the conference at home this season
• The Lobos have won 28 straight games when allowing less than 60 points and are 49-2 in such games since 2004-05
• New Mexico has won three in a row over Wyoming and 5 of the past 6…the Lobos have won six in a row over the Cowboys in The Pit
• In four career games against UNM in The Pit, Wyoming's Brandon Ewing has scored 26 points on 8-41 FGs and 5-20 from 3-point range
• The Lobo bench outscored the Cowboys 37-7
Senior Chad Toppert
• Game-high 17 points, 15 in the first half, on a season-high 6 FGs made…14th game with 10+ points this season…UNM is 4-0 when he leads them in scoring and 11-3 when he scores in double digits
• He has averaged 17.6 points in his last 3 games against Wyoming
• Matched season-high with five 3-pointers, all in the first half… 8-12 on 3-pointers in the past two games
• Shooting 52.8% (19-36) from 3-point range in conference games
Senior Daniel Faris
• 11 points, all in the second half, including UNM's first seven points coming out of the locker room at halftime
• Game-high 8 rebounds
• 43 points (17-27 FGs) and 24 rebounds in the past three games
• 5-5 on FTs…Perfect from the free-throw line for the third time this season and fifth in career (min. 4 attempts)
• 2 blocks for 12th game this season with multiple blocks
Senior Tony Danridge
• 3 dunks moving into fifth all-time for career dunks with 72
• 11 points for 19th game in double figure scoring this season
• Shooting 84 percent (38-45) on FTs the past eight games
Junior Roman Martinez
• 15 points on 5-10 FGs, 3-5 3-pointers while picking up five rebounds…14th game in double figure scoring
• The Lobos are 9-1 when he plays more than 30 minutes
Freshman Nate Garth
• Scored all seven points in the span of 1:10 in the second half
• Five assists for 10th game with 5 or more assists