NCAA Tournament: New Mexico’s dream season turns into a nightmare
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 21 2013 11:24PM
New Mexico came into the NCAA Tournament as the regular season and tournament champion of the Mountain West — the league with the top RPI in the country.
The Lobos earned a No. 3 seed in the West Regional — just as the University of Utah had done 15 years ago before its journey to the NCAA championship game.
New Mexico, led by conference Player of the Year Kendall Williams, owned a 29-5 record and was a trendy pick to reach the Final Four.
Instead, the Lobos are going home.
Thanks to an inspired performance by 14th-seeded Harvard and its own ice-cold shooting, New Mexico’s season to remember became one to forget Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Coached by Tommy Amaker, Harvard defeated the Lobos, 68-62, and moved into a third-round matchup against sixth-seeded California on Saturday.
"Harvard did a great job," said New Mexico coach Steve Alford. "I want to commend Tommy and his staff and their players. They played extremely hard, and they made shots."
Alford cited New Mexico’s poor shooting as a key to the stunning upset.
"We’ve dodged this bullet a lot this year — having a bad shooting nights and still being able to get wins," he said. "We weren’t able to dodge that bullet tonight."
Alford also wondered if the Lobos had gotten a little complacent, given their wonderful regular season and march through the conference tournament that included wins over Wyoming (59-46), San Diego State (60-50) and UNLV (63-56).
"Tonight, I think, was probably the first time this group has been patted on the back," Alford said. "As a staff and as a group of players, we weren’t under the radar. People were picking us to do this and that, and I thought our focus was a little off. I thought Harvard did a lot of things to take advantage of that."
Williams’ shooting woes were typical among the Lobos. He was 1 for 6 from the field, including 0 for 3 from the 3-point line, and finished with only eight points.
"We had a tough shooting night, and they didn’t," Alford said. "I think that’s what resulted in the loss."