Pit magic: UNM Lobos top Boise State in OT thriller - Albuquerque Journal

Pit magic: UNM Lobos top Boise State in OT thriller

A miscommunication by UNM defenders at the end of regulation on Friday night in the Pit in what Richard Pitino said was the loudest game he’s ever been a part nearly cost the Lobos a victory.

A miscommunication by Boise State defenders in the closing seconds of overtime led to a thread-the-needle bounce pass from freshman guard Donovan Dent to a crashing Morris Udeze for a game-winning layup, nearly blowing the roof off a Pit arena still trying to regain its former glory in a thrilling 81-79 overtime victory for the Lobos over defending Mountain West champion Boise State.

“I’m going to just say this: That was the loudest building I’ve ever been in. By far. Not even close,” Pitino said of the announced crowd of 14,566 that at minimum matched, if not eclipsed the energy and volume of the sold out Pit crowd of two weeks ago against UNLV.

“Our fans were amazing. … They affected the game. I couldn’t hear myself that was as good of an environment and as loud of a crowd as I’ve ever seen.”

Both teams gave them every reason to cheer in a game of two of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference that, because of its late 9:15 p.m. local start time on FS1, was the only college basketball game being broadcast at the time on national television, drawing raves from national college basketball media onlookers and was surely on in sports bars across the country.

For the Lobos, the victory moves them to 5-2 in the Mountain West and at 18-2 overall the team ties with two other teams for the second best 20-game start in program history (the 1967-68 Lobos have the record with a 19-1 start).

Boise State falls to 15-5 and 5-2 in league play, in a three way tie with UNM and Nevada for second place in the standings behind league-leading San Diego State (5-1), who the Lobos beat in San Diego last weekend.

Friday’s back-and-forth affair never saw a lead of more than eight points, had eight lead changes, 11 ties and featured a pair of the most thrilling moments of the season for both teams — a 3-pointer that forced overtime and a layup that won it in the extra period.

“An amazing college basketball game by both teams,” Pitino said. “They made plays, we made plays. They executed down the stretch, we executed down the stretch. They’re really good. They’re tough, they’re physical. But I’m proud of our guys to be able to bounce back in the second half (down six at halftime) and just find a way to cut that lead and then go make a huge play down the stretch.”

In a game full of highlight reel plays and potentially pivotal moments, the drama most will remember really started in the final minute of regulation.

A pair of Jamal Mashburn Jr. free throws with 4.9 seconds left in the game put the Lobos up by three — 72-69.

Boise State inbounded with a three-quarters court pass and a timeout with under 4 seconds remaining. That’s when the Broncos drew up a play that had guard Max Rice pass it from in front of his team’s bench inside the arc to forward Naje Smith, who quickly passed back outside the arc to a wide open Tyson Degenhart. The burly 6-foot-7 sophomore who had a game-high 28 points knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game and force overtime.

Both Lobo point guard Jaelen House and power forward Josiah Allick chased Boise State’s Marcus Shaver on the play, allowing for Degenhart to find the space needed for the 3.

Pitino said he chose not to foul the Broncos, sending them to the line for just two free throws when they needed three points to tie the game, because Jaelen House came into the huddle confident about the Lobos defense all game defending the 3. Boise State had made just 4-of-20 3-pointers to that point of the game.

The coach joked “that’s how stupid I am,” for listening to his players and deciding not to call for a foul, but also gave full credit to what the Broncos drew up.

“They made a great play,” Pitino said. “They drew up a great play out of the timeout and Degenhart obviously had a great 3.”

Pitino said he thought that House made the wrong read on a defensive switch, but Allick told the media after his coach spoke that it was absolutely his mistake on the play.

“I tried to think outside of myself and forgot to tell House what I was thinking,” Allick said, taking the blame for a miscommunication. “And I mean I just screwed it up.”

In the extra five minutes, the Lobos jumped out to a five-point lead in the first minute — 77-72 — matching their largest lead of the game.

But, Degenhart, who had three of BSU’s five 3-pointers, hit a bucket and later made a 3-point play with 24 seconds remaining in overtime to tie the game, 79-79.

Not finding a look they liked in the closing moments, Pitino called a timeout with 3.5 seconds left in the tie game to draw up a play for the final huge moment of the night.

In a baseline out of bounds play the Lobos have run numerous times this season — almost always ending up with Mashburn sprinting around from right to left on the court to catch and fire up a 15-18 foot baseline jumper, the Broncos sniffed that out.

Max Rice, who had been defending under the basket to prevent any pass in the lane, jumped out to defend Mashburn, leaving an opening for the screening Udeze to slip by defenders who seemed for just a split second to be confused about who was supposed to chase him down the lane. The 6-8 Lobos big man took the bounce pass from Dent and softly dropped in the game-winner.

“We had them (the Lobos guards) accounted for,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice said in a postgame interview with Bronco Nation News. “Tyson (Degenhart) thought he heard switch, and it wasn’t. We covered that three times. … He thought he heard switch because usually that guy’s screening for some guards and he just stepped out.”

Pitino said he told his team in the timeout he thought the Broncos would, in fact, overplay to prevent Mashburn from getting the ball.

“I thought they would play Mash,” Pitino said. “Donovan made a great pass and Morris made a great dive to the front of the rim. So I screwed up in regulation, but I made up for myself (in the overtime).”

Mashburn scored 15 of his team-high 25 points after halftime, when the Lobos trailed 37-31. Jaelen House scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime. Udeze added 15 points and 5 rebounds while Allick contributed eight points and a career-high 18 rebounds.

Dent came off the bench for UNM to chip in 10 points, three blocked shots and three assists — the biggest of them all coming on the game winner.

UNM held Boise State to 5-of-24 shooting from 3-point range.

The Broncos out-rebounded UNM 45-42 and outscored them in the paint 48-42, but the Lobos scored 12 fast break points in the second half and overtime, where they outscored their opponents by eight points total after a 37-31 halftime score.

HALFTIME INCIDENT: Leon Rice complained to UNM officials at halftime about the Lobo baseball team lining the hall outside the visiting locker room at halftime and talking trash with some players as they were returning to the court.

Security, which was at the scene, did not feel it necessary to intervene, but UNM administration did acknowledge it was a mistake that the team was there and apologized to Rice, who said after the game he still wanted the conference to do something about what he felt could have turned into a “riot.”

The Lobo baseball team was gathered to be introduced to fans at the first media timeout of the second half. Instead of the plan for them to gather after the second half started, somebody with UNM had the team line up in the hall at halftime, making it difficult in the narrow hallway outside the Broncos locker room for the players to return to the court without getting very close to Lobo baseball players, which apparently led to some trash talk.

Rice was visibly upset as he walked onto the court for the second half, talking with UNM administrators and lead game official Randy McCall. .

BOX SCORE: New Mexico 81, Boise State 79 (OVERTIME)

VIDEO: Here is video of the postgame media sessions for Lobo basketball coach Richard Pitino and players Josiah Allick and K.J. Jenkins:

UP NEXT: The Lobos play at Nevada (15-5, 5-2 MWC) at 7 p.m. Monday in Reno.

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