Lobo Coach Craig Neal has his first championship ring as New Mexico's head man. His New Mexico Lobos also have some Mountain West jewerly. And senior Cameron Bairstow has a MVP trophy. “It was very special to me,” Neal said of his first title as a head coach. “I’ve told my guys that they’ll always be my favorite team because they were my first team." The 27-6 New Mexico Lobos defeated San Diego State 64-58 Saturday afternoon in the drama-packed championship game of the Mountain West Tournament to win the rubber match between the top two teams in the league. “The two best teams definitely were playing tonight,” said UNM's Alex Kirk. “I hope San Diego State has a bunch of success going forward.”' UNM's Kendall Williams launched in a monster trey with 24.4 seconds left to put the Lobos up 62-57 and UNM rode that basket to its third consecutive MW tournament title. “I have seen Williams make deep threes against a lot of people,” said SDSU Coach Steve Fisher. “He has a lot of moxie. It was a long, hard shot. I was hoping that one wouldn’t go in.” Said Williams: “Sometimes you have to take those big-time shots." It was a dramatic win for the Lobos, who were up 56-49 with 2:34 to play and down 57-56 about one minute later. UNM rallied for the win and the title with Williams hitting his trey with 24.4 seconds to play and five seconds on the shot clock. Lobo Cameron Bairstow set the stage for that dramatic bomb with a drive and a free throw that pushed UNM up 59-57. “It’s hard to beat a great team three times and that’s that they are, a great team,” said Bairstow. “Fortunately, we were able to close it out at the end.” Williams and Kirk joined Bairstow on the MW All-Tournament team. “It wasn’t about proving a point. You have to understand that’s it’s all about team success,” said Bairstow on grabbing the tourney MVP award after losing out to SDSU's Xavier Thames for MW Player of the Year honors. The win hands the Lobos an automatic bid into the 2014 NCAA Championships. UNM will learn its seed, opponent and game site on Sunday. The No. 8/7-ranked SDSU Aztecs (29-4) appear to be a lock for an at-large bid. “We understand that we have more basketball to play,” said Bairstow. Said SDSU's Fisher: "It’s fun when you win. It’s not fun when you don’t’ win. We have two really good programs, not just teams, that are used to winning and expect to win. I think there is mutual respect, but for 40 minutes you don’t like each other. "To a man in our locker room, we are hopeful that, a week from Sunday, both of us are still playing." The ending was a thriller as the Aztecs stormed back from that 56-49 deficit by packaging a follow shot and a Xavier Thames’ trey around an empty Lobo possession (shot-clock violation). It was 56-54 with 1:26 to the finish line. The swarming Aztecs got a quick steal on a UNM in-bounce play, a dunk, and a free throw. Amazingly, the Aztecs now had a 57-56 lead.
New Mexico Lobos Take Down Aztecs to Claim MW Tourney title
GoLobos.com | Mar 16