Stevens: Top 12 Moments: Alford's Lobos Haul In The Iron
July 22, 2012
Top Lobo Moments From 2011-12: GoLobos.com is flashing back on 12 special Lobo moments from the 2011-12 season.
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Let's admit it. When renovating The Pit, UNM made a major mistake in the planning. The Pit needs a bigger trophy room!
The trophies and awards rolled in for Steve Alford's Lobos during the 2011-12 season, but - not counting an NCAA championship -- there might not be a trophy more important to a team and a program than the iron that comes from a league title.
Nowadays, there are two league trophies available to most teams - the regular-season title and the postseason tournament title.
They both have major significance. The regular-season title is huge because it takes in the challenges of an entire season. You play everybody. You play at their place. They play at your place. It's a strong and meaningful indicator of the strength of your team and your team's ability to overcome a variety of hurdles and focus through the long grind.
A regular-season title in the Mountain West usually brings with it a postseason bid. But the Mountain West tournament offers an automatic NCAA bid and the excitement that comes with bringing teams and fan together in one place for an all-out hoops' war. It's a last-man-standing deal.
The Lobos did the smart thing this past season. They grabbed a regular-season trophy. They grabbed the Mountain West Tournament crown in Vegas.
The regular-season title was a grind for the Lobos as they had to overcome two early losses to San Diego State and UNLV. UNM avenged those losses to help the Lobos earn their regular-season title.
The ending of the Lobo MW wars was picture perfect. There was a battle throughout the season between New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV to determine the league's best. The Lobos won that race in dramatic fashion by slapping down Rebels and Aztecs in the Vegas Thomas & Mack.
The Lobo rolled the Rebs off their home court by overcoming a 34-31 halftime deficit and beating UNLV 72-67 in the semifinals. UNM jumped on the Aztecs early and a 34-23 halftime lead by UNM eventually turned into a 68-59 final.
The championship nets in Vegas belonged to the Lobos.
The Lobos ended the season as the only MW team to post an NCAA Tournament win and were the only MW team in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. New Mexico also was the only team located in Mountain of Pacific Time to make the final Top 25 poll.
UNM finished the season with 28 wins and posted 14 wins away from The Pit - a program record.
"I want to say this team amazed me all year and in some ways it did," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "But the work effort and unselfishness of this team surfaced all season and those are two of the things that make for a special season. These guys earned their success."