Alford, Nevada break Lobo hearts yet again - Albuquerque Journal

Alford, Nevada break Lobo hearts yet again

Steve Alford’s time with the New Mexico Lobos may have come to an end nearly a decade ago, but his dominance in the Pit continues.

Now the coach at Nevada, Alford and his Wolf Pack completed an epic two-game series sweep of the Lobos with a thrilling 77-76 victory on Tuesday night, quieting a dejected announced Pit crowd announced at 15,004.

Senior guard Kenan Blackshear’s jumper from the paint with 0.1 seconds remaining turned a go-ahead, would-be game-winning shot by Lobo guard Jamal Mashburn, Jr., with 19 seconds remaining into an afterthought.

“A heartbreaker,” UNM coach Richard Pitino said. “That ball sat on the rim for a long time. …

“Just one of those deals where the ball kind of rolled their way and you gotta give them credit for that. Mash made a big play. Blackshear goes down and hits a big one.”

Joked Alford, “Kenan did a good enough job of making the basket to where it rolled around the rim awhile to where there was only 0.1 left. I thought both teams, just like (when the two teams played two weeks ago in) Reno, played really hard. A great college basketball game.”

The loss drops the Lobos to 19-5 overall and at 6-5 in Mountain West play, likely out of contention in the league title race with one month left in the regular season.

Nevada, who also beat the Lobos in an epic double-overtime thriller in Reno two weeks ago, 97-94, improves to 19-6 overall and 9-3 in the league standings.

Alford, meanwhile, improves to 8-0 against his former team since taking over at Nevada for the 2019-20 season.

Tuesday’s back-and-forth slug-fest, much like the one 15 days prior that led to a court-storming in the Lawlor Events Center, was close throughout. There were 14 lead changes, including five in the final four and a half minutes.

Mashburn’s jumper with 19 seconds left gave him 21 points to lead four Lobos in double figures, including Jaelen House (18 points) and Morris Udeze (18 points).

But Mashburn and House scored just 13 of their combined 39 points in the second half, and Udeze had the opposite kind of night.

The Lobo big man was held mostly in check in the first half by the Wolf Pack defense that sent an immediate double-team his way anytime he touched the ball within 15 feet of the basket. His first of four points in the opening half didn’t come until the 9:11 mark, and that was only after an offensive rebound near the basket left Nevada defenders out of position.

For Nevada, Jarod Lucas tied a career high with 28 points and hit a career-high six 3-pointers in the win. He and Blackshear, who fought off foul trouble to stay in the game late and finish with 12 points, including the game winner, combined to score the final 12 points for Nevada.

Blackshear hit one of two free throws with 44 seconds remaining in the back-and-forth game to put Nevada up 75-74, before the Mashburn jumper. Then Nevada called a timeout with 15.4 remaining, giving Alford and top assistant Craig Neal, also a former Lobos coach, a chance to try and draw up the final game-winning play for Blackshear.

Nevada hadn’t hit more than seven 3-pointers in any of its previous five games and hadn’t hit more than eight in a game since Nov. 28. Tuesday, they were 11-of-22 from beyond the arc, helping the team overcome UNM’s dominance on the boards (34-27) and at the free throw line (24 made free throws to Nevada’s eight).

UP NEXT: UNM at Air Force, 7 p.m., FS1, 770  AM/96.3 FM

BOX SCORE: Nevada 77, New Mexico 76

EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK: For more news, notes, stats and analysis from Tuesday night’s game, including how the Lobos lack of 3-point shooting could be a problem down the stretch, reach the Emptying the Notebook column.

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