Chad Adams had one of the toughest assignments Saturday night. UNM’s senior forward, who hadn’t been a regular starter until the fifth game this year, dealt with Valparaiso’s Ryan Broekhoff and his 16.6 points per game average.
While Broekhoff scored 24 points at The Pit, Adams held his own and helped lead UNM to a 65-52 victory. Adams, sophomore center Alex Kirk and junior guard Demetrius Walker each had 12 points, as No. 18 UNM improved to 10-0 on the year.
“For me personally, it’s getting into the flow of things,” Adams said. “I think being out there on the court and having an increase in minutes, it gives you more confidence and makes you feel more comfortable while you are out there. You get into the flow better by having an improved role on the team.”
Adams sank four of his eight shots, including his only 3-point attempt, against Broekhoff. The Valparaiso senior forward hit 8 of 14, taking six more attempts than Adams or Walker and nine more than any of his Crusader teammates. Five of Broekhoff’s eight baskets came from beyond the 3-point line.
“I take pride in being put on the team’s best player if he’s in my position,” Adams said, adding that he focuses more on his defensive game than his offense. “I don’t really think tonight he got away from me so much, but he got some good shots with the screens. Overall, I think we did a good job, even though he had a pretty good night.”
Adams isn’t accustomed to postgame media attention. Saturday was Adams’ first postgame press conference since his freshman year in 2009-10. He took longer to find the media conference room after the game than players usually do. UNM head coach Steve Alford even peeked his head into the room and made a joke at Adams’ expense.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see this,” Alford said. A round of laughter ensued.
“Come on, coach,” Adams replied.
“I didn’t think you even knew where this room was,” Alford said. “Congratulations, Chad.”
For the sixth time in school history, the Lobos are undefeated during their first 10 games. Four out of five previous 10-0 starts resulted in conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances; the first 10-0 start was in 1924-25 before conference play was established.
Against Valparaiso, UNM overcame another poor shooting performance early in the contest. The Lobos made 8 of their 25 attempts from the field. They improved that clip in the second half, shooting 12 of 22, but finished the game at 42.6 percent. While he provided six assists, UNM’s leading scorer Kendall Williams did not make a field goal. All five points by the junior guard came from the free-throw line.
However, UNM benefited greatly from Valparaiso miscues. The Crusaders committed 23 turnovers, several off bad passes that flew out of bounds. UNM turned those turnovers into 22 points, about one-third of its total scoring output. With so many turnovers, Valparaiso made 37 field goal attempts, 14 shots lower than any other UNM opponent this year.
“A lot of their turnovers were out-of-bounds passes or traveling or stuff like that, so it’s a dead ball,” Kirk said. “They are already set back up on defense, but when we got the ball outside and they turned it up top, I think we finished.”
While Broekhoff scored twice as many points as any other player, no other Crusader contributed much in the scoring column. Forward Kevin Van Wijk was Valparaiso’s next highest scorer with seven points, and he fouled out in the second half. The Lobos held the Crusaders to 18 of 37 shooting from the field and drew 23 fouls. UNM hit 20 of 31 from the free-throw line. Valparaiso, meanwhile, made 8 of 13 foul shots.
Only one Valparaiso rebound came on the offensive end, tying the fewest allowed under Alford’s six-year tenure.
“We held them to 25 (points) one half and 27 the other half and made things hard,” Alford said. “We knew that they would probably slow things down a little bit, which is fine. We have been able to play versatile styles. I really appreciate the effort by our guys.”
The game featured two winners of the Indiana Mr. Basketball award — a prestigious high school honor from one of the best basketball states in the nation — coaching against each other in Alford and Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew. Alford won the award in 1983 and Drew won in 1994.
Men’s basketball winter break schedule
Dec. 15 – New Mexico State at UNM
Dec. 19 – UNM at New Mexico State
Dec. 22 – South Dakota State at UNM
Dec. 27 – UNM at Cincinnati
Dec. 31 – UNM at St. Louis
Jan. 9 – *UNLV at UNM (MWC game)
Jan. 12 – *Fresno State at UNM (MWC game)