Nov. 24, 2008
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Albuquerque, NM - "The Pit", the home of the New Mexico Lobos can be a very intimidating place for a visiting team.
A hostile crowd, playing in high attitude that can quickly sap your strength, and facing a hometown Lobos team that is rich in tradition are just three factors that has produced a winning home record of better than 81 percent in this old structure that seats more than 18,000 fans.
Despite all the roadblocks for a visiting team, that didn't faze the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team and despite a 85-74 loss on Monday night at The Pit, the Matadors played energetic, tough basketball from start to finish.
Head coach Bobby Braswell was proud of the team's play.
"For us there were certain things that I needed to see from our team, and this didn't have anything to do with the scoreboard," Braswell said. "It was our overall attitude, our effort, our energy and all those good things. I think we improved a bunch in those areas. We're building something. We are not the finished product. I some saw good things tonight."
The Matadors out rebounded the Lobos, 42-33, and Willie Galick and Deon Tresvant each played their best games of the season. Galick scored a season-high 17 points (9-for-11 from the free throw line) and added a team-high nine rebounds in 37 minutes of play. Tresvant, battling a shooting slump to start the year, looked sharp in scoring 16 points (4 three-pointers) along with career-highs in assists (5) and steals (4). In 32 minutes.
Tremaine Townsend, despite being double-teamed every time he touched the ball down in the paint, contributed eleven points, nine rebounds and three steals in 25 minutes.
"Tremaine is still not 100 percent (sprained ankle), but he played like a warrior tonight," said Braswell. "If he makes some of those shots he normally makes, it's a different game."
The Matadors played tough through the first ten minutes of the game. At the 9:32 of the first half, New Mexico held only a one-point lead (20-19), but things got a bit out of hand in the next eight minutes as the one-point Lobo lead expanded to 19 points (44-25) with 1:33 before intermission.
At halftime, the scoreboard read, New Mexico 46, Cal State Northridge 30. Fifteen turnovers, a 31 percent shooting percentage, and six players with at least two fouls didn't look encouraging as the second half began.
The Matadors refused to fold. Instead, the mind set was to continue playing hard, be aggressive and encourage each teammate to continue the fight despite the long odds.
Cal State Northridge staged a rally in the final 4:28 to cut the UNM lead to eleven points, 78-67. The Matadors had the ball, and the momentum clearly on the side of the visitors. A three-point basket would have cut the lead to eight points, but the CSUN shot went awry, and the Lobos came down the court to score their own three-pointer with 3:13 to play, and another basket with 2:50 left to seal the UNM victory.
A final rally by the Matadors including a three-pointer by Dallas Rutherford with seconds to play made the final score, New Mexico 85, Cal State Northridge 74.
"This is a tough place to play (The Pit)," said Braswell. "We made a good run in the second half, but when they hit that three-pointer, the crowd got into it, and it took a little away from us. But I'm proud of our team. They never quit. New Mexico is a good team. They have some young guys who are big and strong. They shot it well, particularly from three-point territory."
At game's end, the Matadors were whistled for 26 fouls with four players with at least four fouls, including four starters.
"We didn't defend tonight, and foul problems again hurt us," said Braswell. "When we got into foul trouble, particularly among some of our starters, it was hard to get into a rhythm both offensively and defensively. But our mind set is to get better every game and get ready for conference. I thought we took a huge step in that direction tonight."
Josh Jenkins, playing before a large group of hometown family and friends, was in foul trouble most of the game, but still contributed six points and five assists.
"Obviously it was a very emotional day for Josh (Jenkins) coming back home to Albuquerque," said Braswell. "He probably didn't score the way he wanted to, but tonight was probably one of his better games. He was a true leader on the court and on the bench. When he was in foul trouble and had to sit down, he was still encouraging his teammates. He kept picking them up and pushing them. I was very, very proud of him."
The Matadors (1-3) continue their six-game road trip with another non-league at Rider (Nov. 29, 3:00 p.m. et).