New Mexico beats Wyoming in Mountain West quarters
LAS VEGAS -- Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said he felt pretty good about his team's chances against No. 15 New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals.
And why not? His Cowboys held the Lobos scoreless for 12:01 -- from the 1:38 mark of the first half until 9:38 remained in the second -- while cutting the deficit to three along the way.
"The game was a lot faster than most of our games," Shyatt said. "As the tempo began to go more the way we are familiar with, I thought they struggled to score.
Tony Snell scored 15 points and the top-seeded Lobos led from start to finish, beating Wyoming 59-46 on Wednesday night.
"We felt there's certain things we can take advantage of playing the Lobos. I thought today, for the relative sense ... not only about the tempo, I felt like the heart of our team was really in pace with the game."
Unfortunately, once the Lobos got back on track late in the game, Wyoming couldn't keep pace. Having to play in front of about 4,000 fans who traveled with New Mexico didn't help.
"We didn't talk about the crowd (pre-game)," Shyatt said, "but I will tell you this, I felt like I was in The Pit."
Cameron Bairstow added 14 and eight rebounds for New Mexico (27-5).
"I guess in the eyes of the beholder of what's pretty and ugly," said New Mexico coach Steve Alford. "In March, when you win by 13 -- to me -- it's pretty."
New Mexico led 34-24 at halftime before Wyoming opened the second half on a 9-2 run, but the Cowboys came no closer.
Wyoming held Kendall Williams, the conference player of the year, to six points but the Lobos' reserves picked up the slack, outscoring the Cowboys' bench 12-0.
Even though the Lobos did not have a field goal for the first 10:23 of the second half, the Cowboys could not take advantage, pulling no closer than three after their run.
"I thought our guys were terrific tonight," said Alford, the conference coach of the year. "We really guarded the way we've been guarding all year. I think we made things hard on them. It became a physical game, which our guys have proven they don't mind physicality."
Wyoming's Leonard Washington and Nance Jr. both played with foul trouble, Washington picking up his fourth with 14:50 left in the game, and Nance Jr. with 11:59 remaining.
"(We) played with a sense of urgency," Shyatt said. "(We) played with a level of toughness. Coming out in the second half down 10, to make their staff call timeout, is an example of what (my players) have been to me personally."
New Mexico kept extending the advantage throughout the second half and had its largest lead at 59-44 lead with 1:15 to go. The Lobos were strong at the free throw line, converting 21 of 29, while the Cowboys made only eight of their 13 shots from the line.
Now Wyoming awaits an invitation from a postseason tournament outside the NCAAs.
"When we came to Wyoming a few years ago, (we) were 280 on the RPI," Shyatt said. "You fill in the blank. Last year, we were 90, this year we're a 67, and maybe after tonight, we went forward after we played No. 2 in the computer."
The Lobos swept the regular season series, including a 53-42 win in Albuquerque on March 2.
Both teams were coming off losses. The Lobos lost at Air Force in the final seconds, 89-88, last Saturday, and the Cowboys came in riding a five-game skid.
New Mexico hit eight of its first ten shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, and all five free throws in the first nine-plus minutes, giving the Lobos a 25-15 lead. The Lobos' largest lead of the first half was 11 with 6:37 left.
"We have faith in one another," Bairstow said. "Guys are going to step up, which they have the whole year. So even when we're not playing well at a particular point, I think we did a good job of being patient tonight."
But the Cowboys defense tightened and New Mexico made only 4 of 17 from the field the rest of the half.
This was only the second time the teams met in the Mountain West tournament. Wyoming upset then-No. 3 seed New Mexico in the 2009 quarterfinal round.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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