Familiar Faces

New Mexico coach Steve Alford won an NCAA title playing at Indiana for Bob Knight.

Twenty years later, the two are meeting as coaches for the fifth time Saturday when Knight brings Texas Tech (6-3) to play New Mexico (8-2). Still, Alford has a hard time thinking of Knight as a peer.

``I don't care if you're 43 or 20. He's still the coach and I'm still the player,'' said Alford, who said he dislikes going against Knight. ``That's the way I want it to be. It reflects the respect I have for him.''

That doesn't mean Alford won't try to beat his Hall of Fame mentor. So far, he's 1-3 against Knight.

``He's going to compete and I'm going to compete,'' said Alford, who is in his first season at New Mexico. ``But it will be nice when 4 o'clock comes around and we can turn our attention to New Mexico State.''

Forget about the coaches for a minute. This promises to be New Mexico's biggest test of the season to this point.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made New Mexico -5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Texas Tech +5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

While the attention is focused on Alford vs. Knight, there's a good matchup on the court between Texas Tech's Martin Zeno and New Mexico's J.R. Giddens. Zeno is scoring 16.7 points per game; Giddens, a Kansas transfer, averages 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Alford spoke at length about how important it will be for his team to limit turnovers, get back on defense, collect rebounds and make sure the Red Raiders don't spend too much time at the free-throw line.

Of course, the former Indiana All-American knows exactly what to expect from a Knight-coached team. Alford insisted it won't give New Mexico any advantage.

``We know what we're going to get, but that doesn't always make it easier,'' he said. ``A lot of times it makes it more difficult because his guys really understand their roles and they do it very, very well.''

Not surprisingly, Alford tries to mirror Knight's approach to basketball - not only with the X's and O's of directing a motion offense and man-to-man defense but also when it comes to motivating his team.

New Mexico center Daniel Faris said as much when asked if the Lobos hope to ``Win one for Steve'' this weekend.

``Coach Alford's kind of intimidating,'' Faris replied, laughing. ``I think we always try to win every game for Steve. If we don't win for Steve, Steve's going to come take it out on us. We've got to win every game, to be honest.''

Knight and Alford first matched wits in 1997. Knight was still at Indiana when he beat Alford's Southwest Missouri State team in 1997. Knight's Indiana team beat Alford's Iowa squad in 2000.

Since Knight took over at Texas Tech, they've split, with the Red Raiders winning in 2003 and Iowa winning in 2004.

Knight hasn't had as much to say lately about facing Alford.

``That's a game that we prepare for just like any other game that we play,'' Knight said. ``If I had to give special consideration to everybody that we play that I've either coached or coached for me, that's all I'd get done.''

In any case, it figures to be quite a weekend for Alford.

He's got friends coming to town to enjoy the matchup, including former teammate Steve Eyl, who played with Alford on Indiana's 1987 NCAA championship squad, the most recent of Knight's three national titles.

There also will be some of Alford's players from his first job at Manchester College, along with former Manchester president Bill Robinson, who gave Alford his first coaching job. Alford insisted they're all coming to see Knight, not him.

``They've all targeted this game. I'm out of tickets,'' Alford said.

by Staff Writers - Email Us

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