By Tim Korte: The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico’s Steve Alford has 300 wins as a Division I coach. He’ll fight to make sure his Division III mark goes into the record book, too.
Darington Hobson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season, Phillip McDonald scored 14 points and Alford won his 300th game as a Division I coach as the No. 12 Lobos beat Wyoming 83-61 on Wednesday night.
Alford improved to 300-178 in 15 seasons at Southwest Missouri, Iowa and New Mexico. His numbers improve to 378-207 if you include his first four years coaching at Division III Manchester College in Indiana.
“Quit taking away my teams at Manchester,” Alford said. “I had some pretty special teams. I’ve got to give those guys props. My career started at Division III and I’ll never forget those guys and those teams. They’d be the first to tell you they’re the reason I got to Division I. We won a lot of games.”
Roman Martinez added 13 points for New Mexico (24-3, 10-2 Mountain West), which has won 10 straight — all in conference. The last time the Lobos did that in league play, Michael Cooper was suiting up during the 1977-78 season.
Arthur Bouedo led Wyoming (9-17, 2-10) with 17 points and Djibril Thiam had 10, but the Cowboys lost their sixth straight and dropped to 0-9 on the road this season. They haven’t won in Albuquerque since 2003, a seven-game run.
New Mexico was sometimes a bit ragged, allowing a few defensive lapses that had Alford looking down the bench for someone to send in. But overall, it was hard to complain.
“We just got sloppy. That’s easy to do because we got up 25, 26 points,” Alford said. “If we had an Achilles’ heel tonight, I didn’t like our transition defense. But our halfcourt defense was, for the most part, outstanding.”
Playing in front of their seventh straight sellout at The Pit, the Lobos had no trouble against the overmatched Cowboys and Alford rested his starters down the stretch.
“They’re really good,” Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said. “They’re playing as good as any team in the country. Anytime you can win 10 games in a row in January and February, you’re playing really well. They’re playing with a lot of confidence, and in this building, it’s good luck.”
The Lobos scored the first 11 points and raced to a 22-8 lead midway through the first half after consecutive 3-pointers by Jamal Fenton and Nate Garth. Hobson added a nice no-look pass to McDonald for a layup that put New Mexico up 26-10.
The Cowboys cut the deficit to 29-18 after New Mexico’s defense went soft and allowed two easy layups by Thiam with 2:58 before halftime. Alford took a timeout to chew out his players, and the Lobos answered with an 8-0 burst that included two 3-pointers by Martinez.
“We did what we do: 23 assists, eight turnovers,” Alford said. “We share the basketball and our defense is getting better and better. I was really pleased. Everybody gets in, everybody scores. Those are always fun nights.”
The Lobos had a great road trip last week, winning at UNLV and Utah. Alford had cautioned his team against a letdown and his players made sure there wasn’t one.
“This was about coming out and getting better,” Hobson said. “You come out of two big road games, guys might be lackadaisical. We’re still trying to get better. We’re 24-3 and we know we still have a lot to prove. We haven’t won anything yet.”
New Mexico led 30-17 at halftime, with nine of the 10 players scoring, and the Lobos kept the momentum going after the break.
Martinez made a jumper, McDonald hit a 3-pointer and Martinez grabbed a steal of Wyoming’s inbounds pass for a layup to start a 12-3 run. Minutes later, Hobson twice took alley-oop passes from Jamal Fenton during a 9-1 burst that gave the Lobos a 61-32 lead and had fans roaring with 12 minutes to go.
The Lobos won their third straight over Wyoming and have beaten the Cowboys six times in the last seven meetings.
“They came out and smacked us in the mouth,” Schroyer said. “They’re very good. Steve had them ready to go.”