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February 27, 2013

Lobos managed just 34 vs. SDSU in first meeting

New Mexico Lobos coach Steve Alford is normally a pretty stoic person who seldom shows emotion. But he is almost giddy when he talks about what his team has done this season.

It is with pride that Alford talks about the accomplishments of the 2012-13 Lobo men's team. There is the obvious like being ranked No. 14 this week and having a 23-4 record. And there is the sort of obvious, like having a 10-2 record in the Mountain West Conference and holding a two-game lead with four games to go. And there is the 4-2 road record in second-toughest league in the country.

Maybe the most impressive stat is that UNM has hung in as the No. 3 team in the nation in the RPI rankings.

``I just think these guys have been special,'' said Alford, wearing a broad smile.

A little more special than the other players last Saturday was Kendall Williams. He scored 46 points by hitting an unbelievable 10 of 13 shots from 3-point range.

``It was just an incredible individual performance all around,'' said Alford. ``It was a very special day for Kendall. When one of our guys catches fire like that, it is fun.''

The Lobos beat Colorado State 91-82 in Ft. Collins. The Rams were ranked No. 22 going in and have the best rebounding team in the NCAA.

``We ended up getting a ton of coverage, not just for Kendall but for UNM. When you have a game like that, it si special for everyone involved,'' Alford noted.

The Lobos have San Diego State coming to the Pit on Wednesday and the last home game of the season will be against Wyoming on Saturday.

New Mexico is going for its fifth league title in Alford's six seasons. ``We know if we win both league games, we're league champs. ``We've done a lot of great things. We've talked about the drive for five, and we're getting closer to it. Last year, we had a two-game lead with four to play and we shared it.''

It would seem easy for the Lobos to have a letdown after such a big win on the road. But San Diego State has a special meaning for UNM. SDSU embarrassed the Lobos 55-34 in California last month. New Mexico shot a miserable 25.0 percent in that game. The Aztecs had a 41-26 rebounding advantage and UNM finished with an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers.

``They beat us in a lot of ways,'' Alford admitted. ``It was one of the poorest games we've played all year. They've won the last two times they've played in the Pit. We're very excited about them coming in here.''

``We just want to keep our momentum going,'' said Chad Adams, one of two seniors who will be making his final walks down the ramp this week. ``We're not looking to be swept by anybody my senior year.''

The Lobos split their series with UNLV and the other two losses were against teams they played only once. The Aztecs are the only team that could beat New Mexico twice this season.

But don't look for Williams to go for 40 points again. In every game this season, someone different has stepped up. Big men Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow probably will be the key against SDSU.

``We expect Kendall to just be who he is,'' Alford explained.


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