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Lobos Fall at Saint Louis

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Alford Ejected In Loss to Billikens

ST. LOUIS – And the Lobos thought losing at home to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits was embarrassing?

No. 20 New Mexico closed an otherwise memorable 2012 with a New Year’s Eve flop in Chaifetz Arena, losing 60-46 to the St. Louis Billikens.

“They came at us really hard the first half and I take full responsibility,” said UNM coach Steve Alford, who was called for two second half technicals and ejected for the first time in his 22-year coaching career. “Our team was obviously not ready to play. That always falls on the head coach.”

Jan. 9 UNLV at No. 20 New Mexico, 8:15 p.m.
TV:CBS Sports Network
Radio: 770 AM

The Billikens’ suffocating defense in the first 20 minutes took the Lobos out of whatever their game plan was. The Lobos (13-2) lifeless effort out of the gates resulted in more turnovers (16) than points (13) in the opening half as St. Louis built a demoralizing 33-13 halftime lead.

It was the worst first half since UNM trailed Villanova 34-11 on March 18, 2005, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

“I can’t say that we just weren’t giving any effort … but it probably looked like that,” UNM sophomore center Alex Kirk said. “We just weren’t in it. We just didn’t have our concentration in it and it showed.”

Alford said the Lobos had good practices the past three days in St. Louis since a 55-54 win over Cincinnati returned the team to the national polls on Monday morning.

“I don’t know if that’s ever happened to one of our teams,” Alford said of the first half. “I know not since I’ve been at New Mexico. It was a brutal first half. I do give St. Louis all the credit.”

The Billikens scored 30 points off UNM’s 21 turnovers in the game.

“I thought we were really executing well and it was certainly spearheaded by our defense,” said St. Louis coach Jim Crews.

The win was the seventh in a row for the Billikens and the second loss in three games for the Lobos, who started the season 12-0.

The most life the Lobos seemed to show Monday was with 9 minutes, 26 seconds left when their head coach was ejected.

A Kendall Williams bucket with 13:22 remaining in the game capped a 16-5 run to open the second half for UNM and cut the Billikens lead to 38-29.

But then St. Louis went on an 11-2 scoring run of its own, making it apparent to the Lobos a comeback was not in the cards.

This didn’t seem to sit well with Alford.

After what he felt was an uncalled foul, he called three times for a timeout, eventually shouting “Timeout!” loudly in the left ear official Tracy Woodsen, who by that time was no more than three feet from the Lobo coach.

When the timeout was called, Alford glared at Woodsen and said, “That’s a foul.”

The outburst resulted in a technical foul. Alford then walked toward Woodsen saying, “That’s still a foul,” resulting in technical foul No. 2, and an ejection, all in about a 10-second span.

“I’ve been in it 22 years,” Alford said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Nothing I can say. Obviously if I say things (about the officiating), I get suspended. I’m obviously not doing that.”

Mike McCall Jr. hit three of four free throws thanks to the Alford technicals, extending the Billikens’ lead to 52-31.

Associate head coach Craig Neal took over on the Lobos bench after the ejection, and the Lobos went on a 13-4 scoring run.

But that was far too little, much too late. UNM never had the score down to single digits again.

The Lobos had season-lows in points (46), field goals (14) and shooting percentage (31.8).

Williams led UNM with 15 points and four assists, giving him 353 assists in his career. He became the seventh Lobo in program history to have 1,000 points and 350 assists in a career.

Kirk scored 13 points and had eight rebounds.

UNM got a combined six turnovers and eight points on 1-for-10 shooting from junior guards Demetrius Walker.

Billikens senior forward Cory Remekun had a team-high 15 points and Cody Ellis came off the bench to score 13 points and hit three 3-pointers.

Point guards Kwamain Mitchell and Jordair Jett combined for just nine points, but also had nine assists and seemed to be in the middle of many of UNM’s first half turnovers.

UNM returns to action Jan. 9 for the Mountain West opener against UNLV.

PLAYER OF WEEK: Kirk on Monday was named the Mountain West Player of the Week after his 15 point, seven rebound, three blocked shot performance in the Lobos win over then-No. 8 Cincinnati on Thursday. It is Kirk’s first Player of the Week award of his career and UNM’s second of the season. Tony Snell was named co-Player of the Week on Nov. 19.

LOBOS LINKS: Roster | Schedule/Results | Geoff Grammer’s blog

— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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