Home/News/The boos directed at former head coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal came and went as their Nevada team turned back New Mexico Tuesday night for the second time this season, 88-74, when the Wolf Pack surged late in the first half at the Pit
The boos directed at former head coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal came and went as their Nevada team turned back New Mexico Tuesday night for the second time this season, 88-74, when the Wolf Pack surged late in the first half at the Pit
By Arnie Leshin
Once the boos faded away, former New Mexico men’s basketball coach, Steve Alford completed his sweep of the Lobos, 88-74, at the Dreamstyle Arena, or if you prefer the UNM Pit, Tuesday night.
The expected boos for visiting Nevada head coach Alford and assistant coach Craig Neal, who replaced Alford when he left to coach the men’s team at UCLA, rang out when they were both spotted walking into the familiar arena. They got louder when the two were seated during the pregame warm ups.
But it was the Wolf Pack who had the last laugh in turning in home and away wins over the Lobos. And for the second time, it was 6-foot-5 junior guard Jalen Harris doing the bulk of the damage by scoring the game-high 26 points that included 6 of 8 free throws, 10 of 19 from the floor, brought down 11 rebounds and handed out a pair of assists.
New Mexico, now 17-11 overall, continued to drop further down the standings of the Mountain West Conference at 6-9, losing any hope of getting a first-round bye for the conference tournament played in Las Vegas. It has stumbled at home, losing three of its last four there after winning its first 13 games before the home crowd, and is now in danger of falling to the bottom half of the conference tournament play-in.
Nevada, though, won its fourth straight, advanced to 17-10 overall and 10-5 in the conference to move into a second place tie with Utah State. .
No. 4 ranked San Diego State, the lone remaining undefeated men’s team in the country, has the top spot all to itself and visits the Wolf Pack in the regular season finale Feb. 29, while the Lobos play at Boise State Saturday..
It was a back-and-forth game before Nevada turned a 13-3 run late in the first half into a 43-33 advantage at the intermission. The Lobos never threatened from there, getting no closer then 49-42 early in the second half. As for Harris, he has surged in the last five games, averaging 32 points per start.
If a packed house was expected, it wasn’t close. The announced attendance was 12,032, short of the 15,411 capacity,
Nevada shot 31 for 62 from the field,13 for 20 from the free throw line, made good on 13 of 34 tries from 3-point range, took down 40 rebounds, blocked seven shots, dished out 16 assists, came away with five steals, and not a single turnover.
But UNM committed 11 turnovers, was 26 for 67 from the floor, a plus 11 for 13 from the foul line, scrubbed the boards for 32 rebounds, and added 14 assists, seven steals and three blocks.
Alford, who left UCLA for the same role at Nevada, admitted he took a few moments during the game to soak it all in, realizing that the Pit is a place that’s unique to New Mexico.
“I expected it to be loud,” he said, “and expected it to be pro-Lobo red, and that’s why we still love and admire it here, and that includes Craig, and I pull for them unless we’re playing against them.”
And unless they meet in the conference tournament, it was Alford and Neal going 2-0 versus their former program.