November 12, 2007

New Mexico Comes Alive to Down Eagles 92-57

Nov. 12, 2007

Final Stats

Albuquerque, N.M. -

The start was impressive, but the tables quickly turned as New Mexico rolled past Eastern Washington University 92-57 in a non-conference college men's basketball game Monday (Nov. 12) in front of 12,016 fans at the famed "Pit" in Albuquerque, N.M.

Eastern opened an early 10-3 lead, but runs of 12-0 and 17-0 by the Lobos quickly turned that advantage into a large deficit for the Eagles as EWU had a pair of five-minute scoring droughts in the first half. Eastern fell to 0-2 on the season while New Mexico, playing its first home game under new head coach Steve Alford, improved to 2-0.

"Four minutes into the game our players did exactly what we were supposed to do and what they were coached to do on both ends of the floor," said first-year Eagle head coach Kirk Earlywine. "We blocked out, stayed in our stance and didn't have any breakdowns defensively. We executed exactly what we were supposed to do offensively."

"We played eight guys, and five of them were playing in their second Division I game ever," he said of the game's turnaround. "I told our players that I don't understand how they can do exactly what they were coached to do for the first four minutes, then all of the sudden start doing something else."

Now, it's Earlywine's turn at a home opener as the Eagles host UC Riverside on Thursday (Nov. 15) in a game that begins at approximately 7:45 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. The EWU women's team hosts Nevada at 5:30 p.m. in the first game of a Reese Court doubleheader.

True freshman Trey Gross scored 14 to lead the Eagles and junior Adris DeLeon also finished with 14 points and added three assists. Senior Kellen Williams chipped in eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.

Four players scored in double figures for New Mexico, led by the 13 points and 12 rebounds by All-America candidate and NBA prospect J.R. Giddens. Jamaal Smith led all scorers with 15 points and added four assists.

"New Mexico is good," praised Earlywine. "(Coach Alford) only has 10 guys, but those 10 players are pretty good. Giddens is a pro talent -- he has NBA potential. I don't know if all the pieces will fit together so that he can play in the NBA, but he certainly has the talent."

New Mexico out-shot Eastern 56 percent to 34 percent, and the Eagles made 10-of-32 three-pointers. Eastern, however, was out-rebounded 42-23 and allowed New Mexico to grab 11 offensive rebounds. In a 68-41 loss last Friday at 10th-ranked Washington State, Eastern was only out-rebounded 34-26 and gave up seven offensive boards.

"Our block-out was pretty good Friday night at Washington State but it was really bad tonight," said Earlywine. "We went from being a really good block-out team to a really lousy block-out team in a span of 72 hours. Sometimes we lose track of the fact they are 18-22 year olds, they are human beings and they are not robots. I have no answer for our lack of block-out tonight."

Sophomore Brandon Moore scored five early points for the Eagles and DeLeon hit a three-pointer to help Eastern to an early lead. When Milan Stanojevich fed Williams for a fastbreak layin, Eastern led 10-3 with 16:35 to play in the first half.

But shortly after that, Williams -- Eastern's lone returning starter -- was whistled for his second foul of the half while helping on defense. He went to the bench and New Mexico proceeded to go on a 12-0 run, forcing five Eagle turnovers as EWU went five minutes without scoring and 6 1/2 minutes without a field goal.

After EWU cut the lead to five at 20-15, New Mexico went on a 17-0 run as EWU went scoreless for five more minutes. The result was a 37-15 advantage for the Lobos, who led 47-29 at halftime.

The 6-foot-9 Moore led the Eagles with eight points in the first half, and was matched by 6-9 Daniel Faris for UNM with eight. Darren Prentice led all scorers with nine in the first half as nine Lobos scored.

Eastern had 11 turnovers in the first half and allowed eight offensive rebounds. The Lobos has six turnovers, but just two in the last 16 1/2 minutes of the half. New Mexico made 57 percent of its shots in the first 20 minutes.

In the second half, the Lobos continued to build on their advantage, leading by as many as 39 in the final minutes. Eastern came no closer than 19, but that came early in the second half before New Mexico used a 14-4 run to put the game out of reach.

"Maybe it was a case that our guys couldn't handle prosperity," added Earlywine. "Things came a little too easily so they decided to do their own thing. I hope they learn a lesson from what happens when you try to do your own thing."

Following Thursday's game, it's back to the grindstone for the Eagles with a game at the University of Washington on Nov. 18 in Seattle, followed by a first-round game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 21 in the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Alaska.

Playing two Pacific 10 Conference schools, one from the Mountain West and one from the Atlantic Coast Conference in its first five games of the season is a tall order for an Eastern team with just three returning players from last year's team.

Eastern's Mountain West Conference foe on Monday was 15-17 a year ago and just 4-12 in league play, but will no doubt be much improved under Alford, who was 308-183 in 16 previous seasons as a head coach. New Mexico opened its season by beating at Colorado 54-47 on Friday (Nov. 9). The Lobos defeated Eastern New Mexico 94-50 in an exhibition game on Nov. 2.

Eastern has lost all four games previously played versus New Mexico, with losses on Dec. 18, 1978 (117-94), Feb. 17, 1987 (90-81), Dec. 3, 1993 (121-62) and Nov. 23, 1996 (69-53) -- all at the "Pit" in Albuquerque. The 1993 and 1996 games took place in the Lobo Classic, including the '96 championship game.

In recent games against the Mountain West Conference, Eastern fell to UNLV (79-82 on 11/14/06), Brigham Young (66-97 on 12/27/05), San Diego State (66-79 on 12/20/03) and Wyoming in the NIT (71-78 on 3/20/03). Eastern has a current four-game losing streak to the MWC dating back to a 75-70 victory over San Diego State (11/23/02).

The Eagles were coming off a season-opening 68-41 loss to 10th-ranked Washington State on Nov. 9 in the first game of the EWU coaching career of Earlywine. The 27-point loss was disappointing, but wasn't without a few positives. Eastern trailed by just 12 at halftime and received a boost earlier in the day when DeLeon was cleared by the NCAA to play for the Eagles this season.

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