As unhappy as fans might have been when Kendall Williams of the New Mexico Lobos committed his fourth foul with just over nine minutes left in UNM’s Mountain West showdown with the Colorado St. Rams Saturday, it did not compare to Williams’ own feelings about it.
"I was real mad," said Williams. "My emotions were high, but [assistant coach Craig] Neal came over while Coach Alford was doing his thing and calmed me down and says, 'You're going to have to bring it home, kid. Don't foul and get the shots that you need.' And that's exactly what I did."
Williams scored 18 of a multiple-record breaking 46 points in the final seven minutes as No. 16 New Mexico overcame a valiant effort by the Rams to win 90-82 before a sold out crowd at CSU’s Moby Arena. In doing so, UNM not only snapped CSU’s 27-game home winning streak, it also claimed a commanding lead with just two weeks left in the MWC regular season.
Afterward, UNM coach Steve Alford had nothing but praise for his junior guard, pointing out that Williams spent seven minute on the bench due to foul trouble.
"That's what's really impressive," Alford said. "He sat about a four-minute stretch there in the second half and still scores and does what he does. It's pretty amazing. But he did a great job in that last six minutes not picking up that fifth foul."
UNM had just taken a 62-61 lead, clawing back from a 41-38 halftime deficit when Williams picked up his fourth foul on an unnecessary reach against the Rams’ Wes Eikmeier, who gave CSU back the lead with the two subsequent free throws.
The Rams would take the lead out to 70-64 at the 6:40 mark of the second half.
Then Williams took over, hitting a trio of three pointers as part of an 11-0 run that gave UNM a 75-70 lead with 3:59 left in the game.
CSU cut the lead to 78-74 on a Colton Iverson lay up with 1:40 left in the game. But Williams answered with a backdoor dunk on the next play and the CSU center missed three of four critical free throws down the stretch and the Rams were forced to foul in the final 50 seconds and UNM hit 8 of 9 free throws to close out the game.
All in all, Williams set a Mountain West Conference record with 10 3-pointers and his 46 points were the most ever scored in the 47-year-old arena, topping the record of 44 scored by Portland State's Freeman Williams on Nov. 29, 1975. The junior from Rancho Cucamunga, Calif. also set the top scoring mark for UNM players in a road game, scoring the most points by a Lobo since 1978.
"The players kept feeding me the ball," said Williams, who had 15 family members, including his grandmother, watching in the stands. "It was really just a team effort, some of the shots I hit were tough. But if the teammates didn't put me in position and the coaches didn't put me in position, I wouldn't have had quite the night I had."
The Rams blamed themselves for Williams' big game.
"We had no answer for him," Rams coach Larry Eustachy said. "... He was completely unstoppable. I want to see film on how many of those shots were contested."