Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009 | 2:11 a.m.
Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ron Kantowski reflect on their experiences on Saturday night at The Pit, where UNLV fell to New Mexico in overtime, 73-69. The guys talk about the infamous 'ramp,' break down the effect of René Rougeau's technical foul and whether the Rebels' season now again comes down to three games in March.
Beyond the Sun
- Mercury News: Lobos beat Rebels in overtime
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steve Alford figured coming in that his New Mexico team playing its patented defense and hitting its free throws would decide the Lobos' fate against UNLV on Saturday night at The Pit.
Well, let's see.
Entering round two with the Rebels, New Mexico ranked first in the Mountain West in scoring defense, holding opponents to 39.6 percent shooting.
UNLV shot only 38.7 percent on Saturday.
As for free throws, the Lobos came in as the league's third-worst team from the stripe, firing at 69.3 percent.
They hit 21 out of 25 -- 84 percent.
Still, that alone wouldn't be enough.
Every bit of Tony Danridge's career-high 26 points helped push New Mexico over the top en route to a 73-69 overtime triumph, improving the Lobos to 6-3 in league play and dropping the Rebels to 5-4.
"We really challenged our seniors at halftime," said the second-year New Mexico coach, whose team trailed by six points at the break. "Tony was challenged the most at halftime and he responded. He had one shot at halftime. We told Tony if he wasn't going to shoot, we weren't going to win."
Danridge scored New Mexico's first 11 points out of the locker room, and strung together 24 of his 26 after the break.
Typically a slasher who can finish from in close thanks to an impressive vertical leap, Danridge mixed in several mid-range jumpers to start the second half, and nothing UNLV threw at him defensively seemed to work.
He also had nine rebounds, and got one inadvertent assist that you won't find on a stat sheet.
He was the one who got tangled up with UNLV's René Rougeau while going for a board when Rougeau drew a personal foul call and then a technical which ended his night.
The result were four converted free throws between Danridge and Chad Toppert, which sent the Lobos from trailing by one to leading by three.
"We were both boxing out, both being physical," Danridge said, looking back on the play. "It probably could have gone either way."
Most important, though, was a running bank shot from the left block with 5.4 seconds left to play in overtime which proved to be the game-winner.
Danridge gave the crowd of 17,407 plenty of reason to get beyond loud in the second half. Loud to the point where his ears began to ring.
"I felt pretty good -- I had it going a little bit," Danridge said. "The plays, I was reading lips to get the plays."
Either way, the win gave the Lobos' senior swingman a feeling of redemption after missing a late put-back which could have tied the game at the end of regulation in New Mexico's 60-58 loss at UNLV on Jan. 3.
"It feels real good -- It's a blessing," Danridge added. "We needed this game to stay one game out of (the MWC regular season lead). We're shooting for that No. 1 spot, so it's a really big game."
The win gave New Mexico six victories in its last eight outings, and the schedule doesn't get any easier, as Alford's club finishes the regular season with four of its seven games away from The Pit.
It starts on Wednesday at Air Force. And even though the Falcons remain the Mountain West's lone winless team in conference play, a gritty win against UNLV reminded the Lobos that nothing will come easy from here on out.
"It's a big step," Danridge said. "But we have to get right back in it tomorrow, get ready for Air Force."