By Dennis Latta
Two players going in different directions were difference the New Mexico Lobos Wednesday night.
Drew Gordon started for the first time and responded with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Phillip McDonald, who assumed he would start every game, was relegated to the bench and responded with 27 points.
Together, the two Lobos lifted New Mexico over Colorado State 68-61 in the Pit.
On the negative side, Dairese Gary, the only senior on the team, had no points, going 0 for 5 from the floor. He did have four assists but finished with three turnovers in a game-high 34 minutes of playing time.
McDonald was expecting to be UNM's leading scorer this season, but he had a lackluster performance in scoring only five points in a loss to Wyoming last Saturday. So coach Steve Alford started the game without McDonald in the lineup.
Gordon, a transfer from UCLA, was picked as the newcomer of the year in the Mountain West Conference, but he had been working back into game shape slowly. At halftime, he had more rebounds than the Rams had individually.
``It was a big wakeup call for me,'' McDonald said of sitting on the bench as sophomore Chad Adams replaced him in the starting lineup. ``I have to be more active on the court.''
In the end, McDonald played 28 minutes. With 48 seconds left in the game, UNM had a 60-59 lead and McDonald hit a 3-pointer. He then hit two free throws 20 seconds later to ice the game.
``He was hard to guard tonight,'' Alford said about his junior guard, who was 9-for-18 from the floor. ``I thought Phillip was huge.''
McDonald's game was huge, but Gordon played like he was huge. He left no doubt with his 16 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. ``We've seen it coming,'' said Alford. ``I thought he was really good. Three weeks ago, he couldn't have played 32 minutes.''
``That was a good test tonight,'' Gordon explained ``With a shakeup in the starting lineup, that opened a lot of people's eyes. I just wanted to go out and work hard.''
Gary and junior A.J. Hardeman, another benched starter, combined for [56 minutes and three points. ``It wasn't A.J.'s best game. It wasn't Dairese's best game. Those are our two experienced upper classmen and we still won.''
NOTES: Guard Jamal Fenton did not dress out for the game because of a deep calf bruise he suffered in practice on Tuesday. He's day to day.
The 13-4 Lobos are 9-0 at home this season. UNM held the lead from the opening tipoff but this was the first time this season the Lobos have not led by at least 20 points in a game in the Pit.
By Dennis Latta
For the second time in a month, a fire alarm forced fans to evacuate the Pit during a men's basketball game Wednesday night, and this time it was caused by a nervous young girl.
For every game in the Pit, UNM gives local dance troops an opportunity to perform in front of 13,000 fans. It has long been a tradition that at halftime, a group marches onto the floor, carries out a routine and leaves with a lifetime memory.
The usual routine was followed Wednesday. A group of brightly dressed young girls headed down an aisle to the floor next to the ramp with about five minutes left in the first half. They line up against the wall in the ramp. The girls stay to the side while the teams and officials head up the ramp at halftime. Then they do their routine on the floor.
But after lining up on Wednesday, one of the girls apparently got bored while waiting. She was fidgeting with the only thing she could find, and that was the fire alarm. Without realizing what she was doing, she pulled it.
With 1 second left in the half, the fire alarms went off and security cleared the building.
``I'm pretty sure that the people who did it didn't understand what they had done,'' said John Stadefer, State Fire Marshal who was at the game.
``Everything worked exactly the way it is supposed to,'' Stadefer explained. ``The alarm is on the lower part of the ramp. There was a group of folks who were there around that alarm. I'm sure that with this experience, someone has learned a lesson.''
UNM could have pressed charges.
``It is a criminal act to pull an alarm,'' Stadefer noted.
The game was held up for 35 minutes. The officials did the right thing and considered the break the halftime intermission. When play started again, the last second of the first half was played. The two teams took a 2-minute break and the second half was started.
Since the renovation of the Pit, there have been some problems bringing the building into compliance with fire codes, which is why Stadefer was on hand. He said that UNM has done everything to meet requirements and that the building evacuation was orderly and completed within a reasonable period of time.
After the game, UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs said that the fire alarm on the ramp would be removed before the next home game because it really isn't needed there.