UNM's Alex Kirk - Josh Holmberg-USA TODAY Sports
The Air Force Falcons upset the No. 12/11 New Mexico Lobos on a snow-bound Senior Day in Colorado Springs, potentially ending UNM's chances for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 12/11 New Mexico Lobos has a record-breaking day from the field but allowed a record-tying 15 three-pointers by the host Air Force Falcons, including the decisive game-winning trey from the right wing with two second left in the game as the Falcons defeated UNM 89-88 in a sold-out Clune Arena on Senior Day in Colorado Springs, Colo. to close out the Mountain West Conference regular season.
New Mexico (26-5, 13-3 Mountain West Conference) shot a season-high 58.6% (34-58), including 15-33 (45.5%) from three-point range but allowed Air Force (17-12, 8-8) shot 56.4% (31-55) from the floor and made 15 three-pointers, tying the mark for the most ever against the Lobos – to tie the highest against UNM this season and tying the mark for the best against a Alford-coached Lobo team.
"I thought our guys played really hard," said UNM head coach Alford. "We were very good on the road again. I thought our effort was tremendous. I didn't like our defensive execution. I don't know if we played good defense. We gave up 56 percent shooting and 89 points. But they made shots."
The Lobos’ hold on the top seed in next week’s Mountain West Tournament was unshaken by the loss, but a chance at a potential 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament may have gone out the window with Saturday’s loss.
Numerous pundits had prognosticated that UNM could earn a top-seed in the Big Dance, provided that they could win out its final two regular season games as well as three wins in the MWC Tourney.
Michael Lyons scored a game-high 30 points on 11 of 21 shooting to keep the Falcons on the Lobos heels for the entire game. But it was the threat of Lyons’ shooting the game winner that opened up senior Todd Fletcher on the right wing to hit the game winner.
After a Kendall Williams went one of two on free throws with 12 seconds left in the game. Air Force advance the ball to mid court and called a timeout.
After the break, AFA got the ball to Lyons on the in-bounds play. Lyons was double teamed and almost tripled teamed and the Falcons’ chances looked bleak. But when Williams stepped over a few steps too far up-court, Lyons fed the ball to a wide-open Fletcher who knocked down the trey.
UNM in-bounded the ball and got the ball all the way into position for Tony Snell to shoot a game winning three pointer, but Snell was double teamed and his contested three pointer barely grazed the side iron and fell the the court.
"They made some big shots," said Alford. "Sometimes when you come into someone else's house, they make everything. And Air Force made everything.
"Nobody likes to lose and we don't like to lose. But if we are going to lose I want someone to play lights out like Air Force did. "
The final seconds negated Williams’ great performance down the stretch as the junior scored the Lobos final nine points, hitting a three-pointer to ignite a 7-1 run to give UNM an 87-83 lead with 17 seconds left.
But Lyons come down and hit a trey with 12 seconds left. The Falcons immediately fouled Williams, who hit the front end of a two-shot free throw chance, setting up the final sequence.
Williams and Snell both scored 21 points, combining to hit 11 of 20 3-pointers and 13 of 23 from the field overall. Williams finished hitting 5 of 6 free throws and had 10 assists to finish with his second double-double of his career.
Fletcher finished with 21 points for Air Force, hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers and Marek Olesinski added 15 points on 5 of 5 3-pointers, with 12 points in the first half as Air Force fought UNM to a 47-47 tie at halftime.