FORT COLLINS, Colo. — No, it wasn’t the deciding play.
But the New Mexico Lobos on Tuesday were told, again, that a late-game mistake cost them in a 76-72 conference loss on Saturday at the Air Force Academy.
After the Journal sought an explanation from Mountain West offices, UNM sports information director Frank Mercogliano late Tuesday confirmed both Air Force and the league acknowledged an Air Force scorekeeper erroneously added a point to a Hayden Graham jump shot — changing a 2-pointer that was called on the court to a 3-pointer during a media timeout with 2:40 remaining in the game.
The Lobos bench brought the issue up with game officials after the media timeout, essentially questioning why the extra point was added to what they thought at the time should have been a 69-66 score.
The Journal can confirm the following series of events that led to the mistake:
At the 6:34 mark in the second half, Falcons forward Hayden Graham hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, 58-58. It was a shot one of the officials on the crew of Kevin Brill, Winston Smith and Rick O’Neill, wanted to review at a later deadball to determine if Graham was, in fact, behind the 3-point line.
Graham hit a jump shot about two feet inside the 3-point line with 3:43 left in the game to push Air Force’s lead to 67-66.
At a media timeout with 2:40 remaining, and Air Force leading 69-66, officials reviewed the 3-pointer at 6:34 and told the scorekeeper it was, in fact, a 3-pointer. The scorekeeper erroneously went back into the game’s play-by-play and made the jump shot at the 3:43 mark a 3-pointer.
At the end of the media timeout, as the Lobos were returning to the court thinking the score was 69-66, the referees informed them of the scoring change. When UNM coaches asked for an explanation, the referees dismissed them and said the call was correct and would stand.
Mercogliano said both the league and Air Force were cooperative in looking into the matter and acknowledged “an honest mistake” was made.
It is unclear how much, if at all, the extra point changed how the Lobos approached the final 2:40 of the game. UNM coach Craig Neal was not made available for a comment prior to Tuesday night’s UNM at Colorado State game.
On Feb. 6, the MWC acknowledged with a rare postgame memo after the Lobos lost 78-71 in overtime at San Diego State that game official Randy McCall made an error in calling the Lobos for a turnover with 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation. UNM, which led by 3 points at that point, allowed a SDSU 3-pointer on the next play and lost in overtime.
The MWC also acknowledge after a series of memos a technology error led to game official David Hall making the wrong call that cost Boise State a win at Colorado State. on Feb. 10.