New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball – At the Charleston Classic
Thursday: New Mexico 97, UAB 94 (2OT)
Friday: 12:30 p.m. (MT) -- New Mexico vs. UMass
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com.
A few words by KKOB’s play-by-play sub, Scott Didrickson, probably sum this Lobo win up best: Crazy, Unbelievable, Amazing.
Didrickson could have thrown in the word “impossible” and probably wouldn’t have got any arguments. The UAB Blazers were one play and three second away from winning this game – twice.
The No. 19/20 ranked New Mexico Lobos twice pulled themselves off the canvas -- at the end of regulation and at the close of the first overtime -- to stun the UAB Blazers 97-94 in double overtime at the Charleston Classic.
“You can never underestimate the heart of a champion,” said Lobo Coach Craig Neal. “They (Lobos) never one time in the huddle, never one time during a timeout, wavered from believing they could get it done.
“They stayed the course. We got very, very lucky that we made a couple of shots.”
The UAB Blazers had two chances to finish this upset, but twice allowed New Mexico (3-0) to pull out miracle finishes. Where do you start? Maybe with Kendall Williams’ 30-foot, buzzer beater off a dead sprint that formed a 75-75 tie.
“If there is a better guard in the country, I’d like to see him as far as doing everything,” said Neal of his senior leader. “He doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. He could have had 40 points if he was selfish."
Said Williams: "We didn't expect it to go down like that, but I'm not complaining. It was pretty much a lucky shot. It looked a little left, but I was leaning pretty far to the right."
The Blazers also made a huge mistake a few seconds earlier by fouling Williams on a drive with 5.5 seconds to play that led to a 3-point play that left UNM down 73-72. If UAB had not made that foul, the Blazers would have had a four-point lead when Williams launched at the buzzer.
In overtime, the Blazers had the game in hand again. They were up 84-78 and 86-81 with 56.8 seconds to play. Again, the Lobos found a way. An Alex Kirk trey with 2.1 seconds to go formed an 86-86 tie and the teams marched into a second overtime.
Here’s an interesting footnote: 6-9 Cameron Bairstow fouled out in regulation and Kirk fouled out in the second overtime.
The second overtime was kind of a yawner. OK – not. The teams were tied 92-92 going into the final minute and UAB had the ball with 27 seconds to go and down 95-94. The Lobos got a defensive stop, but UAB had the ball in the closing seconds with a chance to tie. Obij Aget, who played five minutes, had two blocks in the closing seconds.
“We made a good adjustment,” said Coach Neal of putting in the 7-foot-1 freshman. “I put him in hoping we’d get a rebound or a block. He made two big plays.”
The Lobos made big plays all over the place. So did UAB. Lobo Cleveland Thomas hit the trey that put UNM up 95-92 in the second overtime. That was huge since UAB scored two at the line and then Williams had a turnover with 27 seconds to play.
“I thought Pancake (Thomas) was huge,” said Neal. “He made a big three in the corner. It was too risky a deal to play a bunch of our bench guys in the second half. We’re very fortunate.”
Williams ended the game with 29 points and 10 assists. Bairstow had 21 points and eight boards. Kirk had 16 points and 11 boards. Thomas had 10 points and seven boards and no turnovers. UNM had nine turnovers in a double overtime game. Nick Banyard had nine points off the bench which produced 16 points. Hugh Greenwood had eight rebounds and four assists.
UAB got 34 points from Chad Frazier and 18 points and 20 boards from Rod Rucker. Frazier had seven turnovers in the first half but finished with eight.
The Lobos advance to play a talented and undefeated UMass team. The Minutemen went to 4-0 with a 96-90 advancement past Nebraska. The Cornhuskers fell to 3-1 and fall into the consolation bracket to play UAB.
Massachusetts pushed six players into double figures to out run Nebraska. Sampson Carter had 16 points, Raphiael had 12, Cady Lalanne added 15, Derrick Gordon had 20, Chaz Williams hit 10 and Maxie Esho had 13 coming off the bench.
UMass shot 50 percent from the field, but went 3-of-11 from long range. UMass shot 43 free throws, making 33. Nebraska shot 39 free throws in a game that saw 82 shot. It was an athletic and high-scoring game, but there were only 10 fast-break points scored by the two teams.
UNM held a 35-26 halftime lead over UAB. At 9:29, Rucker rolled in a layup and the 54-53 UAB lead convinced Coach Neal to call a timeout. UAB had outscored UNM 28-18 in the second half at that point and Rucker had 14 points and 14 boards. UAB was on a 14-to-3 run.
At the 7:24 media break, UAB was up 56-53. Bairstow scored on a drive and later tied the game at 61-all from the free-throw line. UAB went up 65-61 but a tip by Kirk made it 65-63. UAB’s Williams scored on a drive: 67-63. The Blazers had a chance to go up six but Washington missed both free throw – but UAB got the long rebound.
UAB went up six points on a drive, but Cleveland Thomas hit UNM’s second trey of the game with 45 seconds to play: 69-66. UAB’s Williams made two free throws to push the Blazers up 71-66. UNM used two missed treys and a wild scramble to get a bucket underneath from Kirk: 71-68. The big Lobo was fouled and made it: 71-69.
UAB went up 73-69 but the Blazers then made a huge mistake. They allowed UNM’s Williams to score a layup – and then fouled him with 5.5 seconds to play. Williams made it: 73-72.
Rucker hit two free throws to skid UAB into a 75-72 lead with 3.6 seconds to play. UNM needed a miracle finish and a miracle shot. They got it from – who else? – Kendall Williams. He dropped in a 30-foot bomb and UNM marched into overtime.
The overtime ending was similar. UNM fell into a hole – down by five, 86-81 (also down earlier 84-78) – with 56.8 seconds to play. A Kirk trey with two ticks to go formed an 86-86 tie and the teams marched into a second overtime.
New Mexico led the whole way in the second overtime and a trey by Pancake Thomas put UNM up 95-92 with 35 seconds to play. UAB scored two at the line and got a turnover with 27.4 seconds to go down 95-94. UAB didn’t score again.
First Half: New Mexico 35, UAB Blazers 26
The Lobos didn’t shoot real well in the first half, got a single point from 7-foot Alex Kirk but leaned on solid defense and good rebounding to aid them to the nine-point lead. Williams shouldered the bulk of the scoring with 13 points with Bairstow adding eight.
UNM shot 3-of-14 from the 3-point line and 12-of-36 overall (33.3 percent), but held UAB to 10-of-32 shooting for a 31 percent half.
Bairstow and Kirk combined for 10 boards and the Lobos were up 25-24 on the board against an aggressive rebounding team. The Lobos won a lot of the statistical battles: 6-2 in steals, 11-6 in assists and 6-11 in the turnover department.
The Blazers probably weren’t happy with the first half, but their second-half needs were obvious. They needed to get their leading scorer C.J. Washington (20 ppg) on the board. The 6-8 forward went scoreless in the first half going 0-of-5 from the floor. Rod Rucker, UAB’s leading scorer last year, also went 0-of-5 shooting.
Guard Chad Frazier had eight points for UAB, but the Blazers’ point guard also had seven turnovers. UAB needed that trio to alter their first-half stats in order for UAB to pull the upset over No. 19/20 New Mexico.
The game was a see-saw, physical battle early before UNM broke out of a 14-14 tie. UNM’s Williams hit the first trey of the game to expand UNM’s gap to 23-16 and then kissed another off the glass to push UNM up 26-18 with 5:12 to play.
Williams added two more from the free-throw line completing a one-and-one: 28-18. UNM was up by ten points and riding a Williams-fueled 14-to-4 run. Hugh Greenwood pushed UNM up 34-22 with 1:43 to play in the half before UAB closed to 35-26.