9:00 PM ET, January 21, 2006
University Arena, Albuquerque, New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- It's the type of give-and-take that a coach and player can joke about when the end result is a must-have win.New Mexico senior guard Mark Walters arrived at the interview room Saturday just as Lobos coach Ritchie McKay was leaving. McKay couldn't resist taking a dig at Walters for his errant pass in the final seconds that went right into Air Force guard Antoine Hood's hands with the Lobos holding onto a 60-59 lead."Nice pass to Hood," McKay told Walters."He was wide open," replied Walters.Walters, himself not open most of the night, scored 20 points and made up for his misguided pass by drawing a charge from Hood seconds later as New Mexico extended its homecourt winning streak to 21 games with a 62-59 win over the Falcons.The victory against Air Force (16-3, 4-2 Mountain West), which went into the game tied with San Diego State for the league lead, denied Air Force a rare win in Albuquerque.New Mexico (12-6, 3-2) has lost to the Falcons only once in the 40-year history of The Pit but this time needed the clutch scoring of Walters, some tenacious defense down the stretch and solid free throw shooting -- 13-of-15 in the second half.New Mexico is 24-1 against the Falcons since The Pit opened in 1966.Still, the Falcons, off to their best start in school history, took the Lobos to the final buzzer. Jacob Burtschi, who scored a career-high 25 points, came up short on his off-balance 3-pointer just before the buzzer.Burtschi, who hit five 3s, took a pass from Hood, who had penetrated into the lane, but Burtschi didn't get a good look. Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik said the Falcons were trying to get anybody open."We were just trying to get into a gap and draw two defenders," Bzdelik said.Burtschi hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 23 seconds left to get the Falcons within 60-59 and on the ensuing New Mexico possession, Walters threw the ball right at Hood. Hood drove into the lane and tried to force his way past Walters, who stood his ground and got the charging call on Hood."I saw Hood going to the hoop so I just tried to step in front of him and not let him score, try to get him to the line," said Walters. "Luckily he charged.""It looked like one (official) called a block and the other a charge," Hood said. "The charge overruled the block and there's nothing I can do about it."New Mexico freshman Ryan Kersten was fouled with 8 seconds left and hit both free throws, setting up Burtschi's last second airball.New Mexico led 60-56 with 30.6 seconds after Kris Collins, a career 59 percent free throw shooter, hit two free throws with 30.6 seconds remaining. Collins finished 5-for-5 from the foul line and was part of a five-point turnaround late in the second half that hurt the Falcons' chances.Trailing 49-47, the Air Force came up with a steal and had a 3-on-1 break going. Dan Nwaelele found Hood open underneath, but Hood missed the open layup. New Mexico got the rebound and Collins hit a layup and was fouled. Collins' three-point play put the Lobos up 52-47 with 6:28 left.Air Force managed two ties in the final 2:17, the first at 54-54 on a 3-pointer by Matt McCraw and at 56 when McCraw hit two free throws after being fouled by Lobo Tony Danridge on a 3-point shot with 1:14 remaining.Hood finished with 13 points.Walters hit four 3-pointers, 7 of 12 shots and had 8 rebounds.Danridge scored 12 points and Kersten 11 for New Mexico which hit a season-high 58.3 percent of its shots against the best defensive scoring team in the country.Air Force trailed 9-2 early but rallied to take a 25-24 lead at halftime. Walters, who scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, scored eight straight points, including a pair of back-to-back 3s to give New Mexico a 41-36 lead with 11:12 left in the game.But the Falcons just kept battling back."Our guys did a great job of not letting that bother them," McKay said. "We played through Air Force's toughness and our missed defensive opportunities."
|FG Made-Attempted||22-46 (.478)||21-36 (.583)|
|3P Made-Attempted||7-21 (.333)||5-10 (.500)|
|FT Made-Attempted||8-14 (.571)||15-18 (.833)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||14 (0/0)|