Monday night in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said it was the rest of the New Mexico Lobos that did in his nationally ranked Huskies.
Sophomore point guard Hugh Greenwood drained a 3-pointer with 2:12 left in the game sparking a 9-0 Lobos run en route to a 66-60 win over No. 21 UConn at the University of the Virgin Islands, improving the Lobos to 4-0 on the season.
“(Williams) hit some crucial shots,” Ollie said of tournament MVP Kendall Williams, who finished with a team-high 15 points for UNM. “But Greenwood hit some crucial shots, too. He hit the biggest one.”
Greenwood’s 3-pointer came after the Huskies had an 11-0 run of their own to take their first lead of the second half at 55-53 thanks to three free throws from sophomore guard Ryan Boatright. The 6-foot Boatright was hit on the wrist by Williams at the top of the key and calmly sank all three free throws much to the delight of the surging UConn-heavy crowd.
The lead would be short lived, however, as Greenwood answered with a straightaway trey of his own on the ensuing possession, putting UNM back in front 56-55 with 2:12 remaining.
The Lobos wouldn’t look back, using that 3-pointer to start a 9-0 run and iced the game with by scoring their last six points from the free throw line.
UNM was 21 of 21 from the free throw line while UConn was just 7-of-9.
“Obviously it’s emphasized, but the guys have to get there first and then make them,” UNM coach Steve Alford said of his team’s free-throw shooting. “I think we won this championship at the free throw line.”
UConn’s Shabazz Napier had a game-high 23 points and his 3-pointer with 12.0 seconds remaining cut the lead to 64-60 before Williams’ hit two clinching free throws with 9.9 seconds left in the game.
Williams started the game slow with four first half turnovers and only two points, but finished with 15 points, five assists and was selected as the most valuable player of the tournament.
Four Lobos scored in double figures — Williams with 15, Greenwood with 12, Snell with 11 and sophomore center Alex Kirk with 10.
“We had a lot of different guys step up,” Alford said. “We showed some of our depth.”
The Lobos got clutch minutes from their two seniors — Chad Adams and Jamal Fenton who played for the first time all season after serving a three-game NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits in April.
Fenton checked in after a timeout with 13:55 remaining in the first half, his first action of the season. The 5-foot-9 senior point guard immediately tried making up for lost time, scoring a pair of buckets in his first 90 seconds on the floor.
It was players like Fenton, Adams and Greenwood, in addition to the star power of Williams and Snell, that made Ollie think this Lobos team will go far this season.
“They’ve got two pros in my opinion and a bunch of role players that know their role,” Ollie said. “That’s a great thing when you know your role and you know what you’re going to get every day.”
The Lobos shot just 39.6 percent from the field and overcame nine first-half turnovers to get the win.
“I just like the fight in the team, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Alford said. “That’s what’s exciting, to be 4-0 and have won a championship already knowing that we have a lot of area to improve.”
SNELL’S HONOR: Snell was named the Mountain West Conference Co-Player of the Week for games played through Sunday.
He shared the honor with Nevada junior guard Deonte Burton. It was the first such honor for both players.
Snell averaged 19.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in the Lobos’ first three games of the season last week, including a career-high 27 points in Sunday’s win over George Mason, including his game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left.