New Mexico was hoping for a big game from Drew Gordon in the post against No. 11 UNLV on Saturday.
What he delivered far exceeded the Lobos’ expectations.
Gordon scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in New Mexico’s dominating 65-45 victory, its second in 48 hours over a ranked team.
”Twenty-seven and 20 against not just a team but against a top-15 team
in the country and you get 27 and 20, it’s pretty special,” New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. ”Our guys saw that and they kept going to him and I think that was a big positive.”
Gordon is just the fifth player in the last decade to record a 20-20 against a ranked team. He is the first since DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh did it in 2009 against Connecticut.
At one point in the second half, Gordon scored 10 consecutive points for New Mexico and later had eight points — including the last six — during a 16-1 run that left the Lobos (22-4, 8-2 Mountain West Conference) with a 52-37 lead. Tony Snell hit a 3-pointer, drove the baseline for a dunk and dished to Gordon for a finger-roll basket during the run.
”Things were just falling for me,” Gordon said. ”I don’t know how or why but the basketball gods were good to me.”
The first time the teams played, UNLV (22-6, 6-4) doubled down on Gordon, but didn’t employ that defense Saturday.
”We wanted to get the ball inside,” Alford said. ”They weren’t doubling us now so we felt like we could go one on one with them in the post, hoping Drew would get going. And if he got going, then the double would come and we would get open shots and that’s really what happened. It opened up our offense when we were able to get the ball inside.”
Shots were falling in a variety of ways for Gordon as he scored on layups, dunks and even 15-foot jumpers, which had not been falling earlier in the season.
”I really worked on that in the beginning of the season and in the first couple of games it really wasn’t falling which blew my confidence level completely,” Gordon said of his extended range. ”And then I just got in the gym and put up jumpers. People were starting to be able to guard me down low and know I was going to move so I needed a different weapon to use. Getting in the gym and putting up shots is why it’s falling right now.”
UNLV coach Dave Rice said Gordon proved a point in this game.
”Drew Gordon proved that he’s one of the best big men in the country,” he said. ”He was terrific.”
Gordon, however, was just a part of the story as the Lobos limited UNLV
to a season-low in points and gave up just four field goals in the second half.
”There is no team in the last month that has guarded the way we have guarded,” Alford said. ”To hold a team like this, averaging 80 coming in here, (with a) very high octane offense, very hard to guard, and you hold them to four field goals in the one half, you just have to take you hats off to our group of young men. They really defended.”
The New Mexico defense took the Runnin’ Rebels out of their game, Rice said.
”They’re terrific on the defensive end,” he said. ”They just challenge you to make shots from the perimeter and unfortunately we were not able to do that today.”
The Lobos beat No. 13 San Diego State 77-67 on Thursday.
Anthony Marshall had 18 to points lead UNLV, which lost for the third time in four games.
The Rebels used a 12-2 run to take their biggest lead at 21-13, holding the Lobos without a field goal for eight minutes midway through the first half. New Mexico immediately responded with a 10-0 run to go up 23-21.
Marshall, who finished with 10 rebounds, scored seven points over the last four minutes of the game when the Rebels already faced a daunting deficit.
UNLV, which led 27-26 at halftime, had just four field goals in the second half while Gordon had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the same time.
Snell finished with 12 points and five assists without a turnover.