Stevens: Neal's Lobos Fall 71-70 at Boise State
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/12/2014

­­­New Mexico Lobos Mountain West Basketball – At Boise State

Wednesday: Boise State 71, New Mexico 70  

Saturday: 4:05 p.m. (MT), Nevada at New Mexico – The Pit

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.

For a fleeting moment, it looked like the Boise State Broncos were going to make the same mistake that so many other teams make: let Kendall Williams beat you.

The Lobo senior knocked down one of his patented closing-second bombs to hand the Lobos a 70-69 lead with 31.6 seconds to go. It looked like the Lobos were going to escape yet another hostile gym with a Mountain West road win.

But the Broncos -- who kept hanging, hanging, hanging around -- got two free throws from Derrick Marks with 13.9 seconds to play and it was the Broncos who escaped with a heart-stopping 71-70 win.

“I thought we were over the hump when Kendall made the trey,” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal.  “But they (Boise) made some plays. You have to give them credit. We made little bitty mistakes that we hadn’t been making on the road.”

The Lobos had been handed a gift of sorts on Tuesday night when Wyoming handed league-leading San Diego State its first MW loss.  A win at Boise would push the Lobos onto the same rung of the MW ladder at 10-1.  Instead, the Lobos slip to 9-2.

“We had a chance to get tied for first place, but you can’t win them all on the road,” said Neal. “We’re up 11 in the second half, but there are little plays you have to make on the road and we didn’t make them.”

The Lobos had a chance to make a big play in the closing seconds as Williams raced down the court in the final 14 seconds, drove the lane – and kicked the ball out to Hugh Greenwood on the right side of the perimeter.  Boise State closed quickly on defense to take away the trey. Greenwood had to launch a step-away jumper over good defense.

 Greenwood was on balance, but his shot was long and off the back of the rim. Game over.

“Hugh had a decent look, but it just didn’t go in,” said Neal.  “We had a good shot.  I thought Kendall made a good play.”

Marks went to the line after a hard dribble-drive to nail the winning points for Boise.  “You can’t let them drive you on a straight-line drive on the last possession,” said Neal.  “We missed some free throws late in the game.”  UNM went 11-of-17 from the line in the second half. 

The Lobos got 22 points from Williams and 20 from Cameron Bairstow.  Alex Kirk reached double figures with 13 points and he added nine boards. UNM got no field goals off its bench and was outscored 24-to-2 in that stat. The Broncos won the board war 35-to-25 as they attacked the boards with renewed intensity in the second half.   

“Alex can’t rebound alone.  You have to team rebound,” said Neal.  “They made the 50-50 (hustle) plays.”

UNM’s biggest lead was 12 points in the first half and the Lobos were in control of the scoreboard most of the game.  Boise State’s biggest lead came with 43 seconds to play – a two-point gap.  The Broncos had 10 second-chance points to two for the Lobos. Boise State won the points-off-turnovers category 9-to-6.

It’s a wonder there were any points scored off turnovers as UNM had four and Boise State had five miscues.  UNM shot a hot 51.2 percent from the floor and Boise shot 39.7 percent, but the Broncos launched 15 mores times – 58 shots to 43 shots.  Boise State went 11-of-25 from 3-point range and UNM went 6-of-11.

Bairstow was a major thorn under the Broncos’ saddle early, but the Broncos clamped down on the 6-9 Lobo late in the game throwing two Bronco defenders on the talented Lobo.

“You have to give them credit,” said Coach Neal.  “They took Cameron out of the game in the last eight minutes.  They trapped him.”

Neal said he told his Lobos if they held Boise State to 35 points in the second half, the Lobos would win.  The Broncos scored 36 points in the one-point win.  UNM scored 28 second-half points.

The loss dropped UNM to 18-5 overall.  New Mexico returns to The Pit on Saturday to play Nevada.

“It hurts right now,” said Neal. “But we have to turn the page and get ready for Saturday.”

First Half: New Mexico 42, Boise State 35

The Lobos got 23 points from the Bairstow/Kirk combo and Delaney went 3-of-3 from long range to help UNM into a seven-point halftime lead. UNM shot 56 percent from the floor and 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from 3-point range. Boise State shot 37.9 percent.

The Lobos jumped to leads of 9-4 and 11-6 before a Marks’ trey handed Boise a 12-11 lead.  Delaney answered long from the baseline to push UNM up 14-12 and then buckets from Bairstow and Williams gave UNM an 18-12 lead.    At the 11:22 break, UNM was up 18-14 with Bairtow and Delaney each with six points. UNM was shooting 53.8 points from the floor.

UNM used two buckets by Bairstow to help form a 25-17 lead and a Boise trey cut that gap to 25-20 at the 7:36 mark.  The teams exchanged treys – Kirk and Delaney for UNM – and UNM went up 31-26.  At the 3:30 stop, UNM had a nine-point bulge at 37-28.  Bairstow now had 14 points.

A Williams drive and a kick out to Kirk handed UNM its biggest lead of the half at 41-30 with 2:15 to play.  It got bigger at the 1:24 mark on a Williams’ free throw: 42-30.  Boise cut it to 42-35 at the half.