Rushed Reaction: #5 New Mexico 75, #12 Long Beach State 68Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012
Three Key Takeaways.
- Steve Alford Can Coach. Dan Monson went with some trickery during what could have potentially been the game-winning play down the stretch, using a play called “Iowa” to try to get a late three — it’s named after the Hawkeye State because Monson said in the press conference afterward that he had stolen it from Alford while the Lobo coach was at Iowa. When another coach is stealing your plays and admitting to it, that’s a pretty good indication of coaching acumen alone, but it was also obvious in how New Mexico handled the 1-3-1 zone that Long Beach threw at them. Monson said that they did that because the Lobos hadn’t seen much of it before, but they consistently handled it and found the open man in the creases of the zone (most notably, when Kendall Williams nailed a huge three from the wing to give New Mexico its lead back).
- New Mexico’s Unsung Heroes. Drew Gordon had the best numbers on the winning team with an 18/13 performance, but it was some of the other Lobos who made the bigger plays down the stretch to ensure that New Mexico advanced to the next round. We’ll discuss Kendall Williams below, but the players who kept making big plays when the Lobos needed them were the unsung guys, also including the freshman Hugh Greenwood (12/4/4 assts) and Demetrius Walker (11/4). For New Mexico to advance any further in this Tournament, they will need to have that sort of consistent performance from players other than Gordon inside.
- Casper the Ghost. We said at the half when Ware had only scored seven points that we felt he’d need to triple his scoring output for Long Beach State to win the game. He ended up with 17 points on 5-19 from the field, and his last several possessions were an unmitigated disaster. First, he missed a layup on a drive, then he missed a much-needed three from the corner. He then got lucky after a turnover led to a loose ball to put him on the line for two free throws (he made them), but then another missed layup finished his team off in the final 30 seconds. Ware had a tremendous career at LBSU, and you hate to see a guy go out like that, but Dan Monson’s team wasn’t going to win without him playing better.
Star of the Game. Kendall Williams, New Mexico. Williams ended up with 16 points and five assists in the game, but it was his defense on Casper Ware late that really frustrated the talented 49er guard, in addition to some timely buckets on the other end. With just under five minutes to go, Long Beach had just taken a one-point lead and had all the momentum — Williams’ response was to nail a wing three to give his team back the lead. He followed that up with a couple of foul shots a minute later, and a layup in the last 90 seconds that created a four-point cushion when Long Beach was surging again.
Quotable. Williams, when asked about his game-changing three with just under five minutes to go being the biggest shot of his career: “Hopefully I’ll have some bigger ones on Saturday.”
Sights & Sounds. Long Beach State’s Casper Wareshows how much it hurts to walk off the court for the last time in your uniform.
What’s Next? New Mexico advances to face #4 Louisville on Saturday in an interesting matchup that will be played above the rim by both teams. Both teams like to mix up defenses, with the Lobos effectively using a 1-3-1 against Long Beach today. We’d have to believe that this will be a tough, low-scoring affair with the key matchup being Peyton Siva vs. Kendall Williams.