Coming off a pair of road losses in Mountain West Conference play, the New Mexico men's basketball…
(24-6, 10-4 MWC)
will be the 2-seed going into next week's Mountain West
tournament after San Diego St. survived an upset bid at TCU
winning 98-92 in overtime to claim the 1-seed and a share of the
UNM will face 7-seed Air Force on Thursday night at 6 p.m. in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The game will be televised on The Mtn.
On Saturday afternoon, the Lobos found themselves in a dogfight with Boise St. after coming out cold on offense and after leading at halftime, found themselves having to fight back again in the second half before pulling away late.
Gordon score a career-high 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting to lead all scorers and pulled in 12 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season while Greenwood scored 15 points and pulled down 5 rebounds. Sophomore guard Kendall Williams added nine points and seven rebounds. As UNM got scoring from all 10 players who checked in.
Derrick Marks scored 17 and Ryan Watkins added 16 off the bench for Boise St.
"I thought we played well, we played hard and we played a team that shot the ball well and rebounded the ball well against us," said Alford. "They came in with a very good game plan and they played us hard. That is what this league is, but to pull away in the end, that was the key."
The Lobos trailed by as much as nine in the first half before making a pair of surges to get back in the game. UNM took back the lead on a trey by Greenwood that made the score 27-25 at the 5:42 mark. Boise's Derrick Marks answered with a trey to take a momentary 29-28 lead but New Mexico responded with a 7-2 run to finish the half and take a 35-30 lead into the break.
The Lobos started strong in the second half and pushed the lead to 43-35 as Gordon scored UNM's first six points of the half. UNM looked to be asserting control of the game but Boise responded 13-2 run as UNM went 1-of-6 from the field. Sophomore guard Kendall Williams ended the run with a trey to tie game at 48-48 with 9:34 left in the game.
Boise St. reeled off four points to push the lead to 52-48 but UNM again surged. Gordon and Greenwood provided the spark as Gordon converted an old-fashioned three-point play with a lay-up followed by the free throw and Greenwood went 1-of-2 on free throws then on the next possession stole the ball from BSU's Jeff Elorriaga and drove the length of the court for a lay up to again tie the game at 54-54 with 6:12 left.
UNM outscored the Broncos 9-2 over the next three minutes to take a 63-56 lead. BSU cut the lead to 63-58 on a pair of free throws by Thomas Bropleh but the Lobos outscored the Broncos 13-3 the rest of the way. Gordon put the dagger into BSU with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 29 seconds left in the game to end the scoring.
"That shot was just an end-of-game situation where I wasn't going to lose the game or the momentum was going to swing in the other direction," said Gordon. "The coaches told me no and I said yes and it just worked out."
Two keys to the game were points off of turnovers and fast break points. UNM scored 19 points off of 12 turnovers. The Lobos committed just five turnovers – a season low. New Mexico also took advantage of transition points, outscoring BSU 10-2 on fast breaks.
The Broncos out did UNM at the free throw line, going 15-of-16 compared to the Lobos' 16-of-23. But New Mexico shot just over 54.2% (26-of-48) wile Boise only shot 40.8% (20-of-49). The Lobos also heated up from the three point line in the second half, hitting 4-of-8 – all four coming at crucial moments.
The Lobos overcame their largest deficit of the season, nine points, against Boise. Gordon praised his team for its tough-mindedness when it fell behind Saturday.
"I think the team really builds on each other," said Gordon. "When you face adversity it can go two ways: people start arguing and it goes south or people support each other and make sure that whatever their role is they play it to the best of their abilities and they're there to pick other people up."
Alford praised Boise St.'s coaching staff after the win.
"They had a great game plan," said Alford. "They obviously wanted to slow it down, spread us, play four guards and we played two bigs and in the last ten minutes to go to match them four guard to four guard. I thought that was the difference and it speaks volumes again to the unselfishness of guys like A.J. Hardeman, who didn't get as many minutes as he does usually because we had to go with four guards."
Alford continued, "I thought we made some really big plays and a lot of pressure situations. When you're trying to win a championship and the team you're playing has you down five inside ten (minutes) that pressure gets even tighter. We haven't had a lot of close ones and that really helped our guys to be able to finish a team off and do it the way we did it."
Alford said that though he emphasizes regular season championships, that winning the league tournament "comes down to who shoots the ball well."
"The league championship means an awful lot to us because it is a two month body of work," Alford said. "Regardless of who we play in Vegas next week, it is a team we have played before and they know us and we know them. It is about guarding and hoping you make some shots."