Kendall Williams of the New Mexico Lobos - Getty Images
Starting point guard Kendall Williams of the No. 25 New Mexico Lobos, was suspended for this afternoon's 72-45 win over the Fresno St. Bulldogs this afternoon in The Pit in Albuquerque. While the junior's absence didn't seem to affect UNM's play, his absence did take some of the luster off the win.
The New Mexico Lobos have had some frustrations on the court lately, mostly with their shooting.
It was the second time Williams has missed a start this season and the sixth time in the last two season's the junior, who is considered a team leader by fans and the team alike, has sat due to his tardiness. But it was the first full-game suspension for Williams.
"He was late," said UNM head coach Steve Alford. "I've tried a lot of different things... so this (benching him) was the next step.
The benching comes just days after Williams was named to a Bob Cousy Award finalist. Ironically Williams found out he had made the Cousy Award watch list just before the Lobos' loss to the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits
Alford said Saturday after the game that Williams was late for a team meeting Friday night and was told Friday night he would not play Saturda. Asked if benching was a "flat one game suspension," Alford was sanguine.
"I don't know if I want to say it's a flat one game (suspension)," said Alford. "I guess that's yet be determined. But I was not going to play him today."
Williams was benched for the first half of New Mexico's 70-65 loss at home against the SDSU Jackrabbits for being late to a team meeting before the game. His absence was one of the main factors in the Lobos' slow start agaist SDSU, who jumped out to an early lead while UNM found its bearings without Williams.
Williams has started in 14 of UNM's 16 games this year and leads the Lobos in scoring and assists, averaging 14.6 PPG and 4.6 assists per game while averaging 34.9 minutes per game.
Asked if he was frustrated by the situation and Williams' actions. Alford turned philosophical.
"When you're dealing with 18 to 20 year olds, frustration is always going to be part of the job at some point," said Alford. "You just hope that guys learn lessons. One of the things were in this for is to keep guys accountable and being accountable is making sure you do what you have to do within the framework of the team. And I would hope Kendal responds and does the right thing.
Alford joked that there were several meetings between Saturday and UNM's next game at the Boise St. Broncos on Wednesday, so Williams' suspension could go beyond one game.So while he's not happy with the junior, he thinks Williams will find his way.
"He's a terrific player, he's a terrific individual," said Alford. "We make mistakes, he's gotta learn from it. hopefully he'll be better because of it."