Kendall Williams hits a deep (unadvised) three that pretty much seals the game.
The University of New Mexico men's basketball team is going dancing. There was never any doubt. Not after winning the Mountain West tournament. Not after the automatic bid that comes with that win. The only question was one of seeding. And what of the moment on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that UNM received a 7 seed and will have to play in the South Region and face a potential match-up with 2-seed Kansas in the second round? Well, it seems like feelings in the land of Cherry and Silver are running high.
New Mexico's first game against 10-seeded Stanford is no walk. And after flaming out against Harvard last year, there's plenty of emotion about facing yet another school known primarily for its academics. Stanford finished their season with a 21-12 record, as opposed to the Lobos' 27-6. The Cardinal plays in the vaunted Pac-12 Conference, where they ended up a pedestrian sixth—but every team that finished ahead of them in their conference wound up in the NCAA Tournament as well.
In fact, spurned Lobos fans, still bitter about many events from last year, are looking way past Stanford. Some are even looking forward to a potential Elite Eight matchup with UCLA—the team that ex-head coach Steve Alford bolted for after New Mexico was bounced in last year's Big Dance.
However, that's putting the cart way before the horse. Stanford will want to make waves by taking out the back-to-back-to-back Mountain West champs. No team goes into a game hoping or expecting to lose. But should the Lobos get past the Harvard of the West, they'll face stiff competition in a Kansas team that many were shocked to see fail to garner a 1 seed. The bit of good news for New Mexico fans is that the Lobos have already played Kansas. The better news is that Kansas was only up 1 point, 39-38, at halftime of that game. The horrible news? The Jayhawks ran away in the second half, finally winning 80-63.
If the Lobos can make it through opening weekend, the tournament doesn't get a lot easier, as they're in the same grouping as overall number one seed, Florida. However, the talent on this team believes they're capable of making a deep run; let's not forget all those #UnfinishedBusiness tweets from the beginning of the year. This is when that follow-through gets to the proving time and first-year head coach Craig Neal continues a proud tradition.
On Friday afternoon, the University of New Mexico soccer team lost in the Final Four of the NCAA post-season tournament. Although UNM did a good job of controlling possession and took as many shots on goal as the Fighting Irish did, they allowed an early slip in defense, which led opportunistic Patrick Hodan to a goal in the seventh minute. With that disadvantage ensconced in their minds, the Lobos refused to play timid, challenging the staunch Notre Dame offense again and again.
As the second half began, though, and time started to slip through the fingers of the Cherry and Silver, things got a bit more tight. The set pieces started to develop for both teams—there were no corner kicks in the first half, and 8 total in the second. UNM still played the role of the aggressor, but it was clear by the mid-point of the second half that it was because they had to, not because they wanted to. Finally, in the 65th minute, Notre Dame connected again with the back of the net. Again, it was Hodan, this time off an extremely odd miss, hammered off the crossbar by Vince Cicciarelli and followed up on by Hodan after an unlucky Lobo touch.
From then on, it was desperation mode for coach Jeremy Fishbein and his crew; watching their magical season evaporate in front of their eyes and on ESPNU. When the final whistle sounded, UNM was still down 0-2, and Notre Dame was advancing, although their opponent was still to be determined at the time. Later Friday evening, Maryland took down Virginia for their place in the national title match.
There have got to be several consolations to ending the season in a loss, even in the face of departure from their seniors. Kyle Venter has been invited to the MLS Super Draft and is almost certain to be selected, while goalkeeper Michael Lisch and a pair of Michaels—Kafarri and Calderon—will all be gone next year, even if they don't all make it to the MLS. But the silver lining to these heavy contributors leaving the team is that there is a strong youth movement behind them. For a team that sometimes felt like it was overachieving this year, there's a solid foundation to build upon next year. And, much like this year's eventual champion, Notre Dame, there's a strong chance the Lobos will come back stronger next season.
The Lobos played yet another fantastic season and have much to be proud of. The future looks bright.
The Lobo soccer team continued its roll in the NCAA post-season tournament on Sunday, winning the match against Penn State by a final score of 2-0. The opportunities for more scoring in the match were numerous, but the Lobos just could not connect for the extra insurance. However, as the clock ticked down the seconds of the Sweet Sixteen game, it became apparent that the bonus points weren't needed—the Lobos are now headed back to the Elite Eight for their second time since 2005.
The Lobos will match up in Seattle against the University of Washington Huskies, where the current head coach is Jamie Clark—a man well-known in Albuquerque for his role as an assistant coach to the Lobos from 2002 to 2005. Clark served under current head coach Jeremy Fishbein and was present for some of the most exciting times in Lobo soccer. Ultimately, he would depart the Cherry and Silver squad when an opportunity arose at Notre Dame, where he would assist under his father. After brief stints at Harvard and Creighton, Clark has now taken the Huskies to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.
Neither Washington nor UNM have faced ranked opponents in the Tournament thus far, but if the Lobos win the game on Saturday, they'll have to travel again. Their opponent, should they win in Washington? Either an upstart Michigan State team, or the Notre Dame team that Clark left UNM to work with.
Either way, Coach Fishbein, cognizant of having been here before, says he would love to continue playing at home, but the team is ready to take the battle up to Washington. As one of only three programs in the nation to make three consecutive Sweet Sixteens, the Lobos will look to match or beat their prior best; the last time UNM made it past the Sweet Sixteen, they went all the way to the national championship game, before ultimately falling to Maryland.
The UNM/UW game will be streamed online Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6pm MST and should be shown at various bars around town. The soccer program is making waves yet again as an organization worth the time to support.
On Saturday, the University of New Mexico Lobos started hot. The cherry-and-silver squad scored 21 points in the first quarter, running up 217 yards in the first twelve minutes alone. However, the energy couldn’t be sustained. The Rebels of UNLV came out with almost as much steam, and the Lobos ultimately fell 56-42, scoring consecutively less per quarter in a game that had seemed an almost-certain win at many points early in the evening.
While the Lobo offense hummed in the first quarter, UNLV came right back at UNM in the second quarter. The Lobos registered another 14 points, UNLV another 21, and come halftime, the score was knotted at 35-35. The running game maintained their domination of the offense, especially for the Lobos, who gained another 183 yards. The two teams combined at half for 749 yards, but the tied score wouldn't remain that way for long.
The Rebels started to utilize the passing game and took advantage of a Lobo fumble, holding the previously unfettered running game to a mere 97 more yards in the entire second half. Two consecutive touchdowns by UNLV in the span of a mere three minutes seemed to break the Lobos’ willpower to mount any kind of comeback.
With the loss, the Lobos drop to 1-3 for the year. Coach Bob Davie said, post-game, that the first half was unbelievable but admitted that the end result depended on being able to stop the other team. Lobos' offense has proven their capabilities, especially in the first half of Saturday's action, but the defense of the cherry-and-silver needs to continue to work in order to right UNM's year.
Looking past the sting of the defeat, the night also brought about a school record of three players each rushing for more than 100 yards: Kasey Carrier, Carlos Wiggins and quarterback Cole Gautsche each accomplished the feat.
When the University of New Mexico Lobos took the field for the first regular-season game on Saturday afternoon, things felt fine. The weather was good, the pre-season had gone well and second-year coach Bob Davie was looking to continue down the trail of improvement that he'd begun last year. For the first quarter—and most of the first half—things seemed like they'd stay pleasant. By the end of the game, though, the Lobos offense showed that it could not advance beyond an early spurt, and the defense proved porous the entire game long. The Lobos fell to the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners, 21-13.
The game started on a positive note, as SaQwan Edwards returned a fumble for a touchdown. Coach Davie, showing confidence in his team, went for two, but missed the conversion. A disappointment for the Cherry and Silver home crowd, certainly, but never a bad move at home, in the first game, after such an early touchdown. The first quarter ended with UNM up 6-0 and the second quarter proved more of the same; the Lobos scored quickly again on a perfect pass from second-year quarterback Cole Gautsche to a wide-open Marquis Bundy. UNM took the easy kick this time, and sat pretty on a 13-0 lead.
However, the Roadrunners began their comeback at the end of the second quarter, and the Lobos never scored again. The Lobos lost the game on every conceivable benchmark, possessing the ball for just under five minutes less than the Roadrunners, while throwing and running for fewer yards as well. As impressive as the game began, the Edwards touchdown came off the only turnover in the game. With the Roadrunners playing a protective game, UNM wasn't aggressive enough to cause any other opportunities. While Gautsche provided an impressive running game, tallying 118 yards, he only completed four of 12 passes, for 65 yards. In stark contrast UTSA's quarterback, Eric Soza, threw for 237 yards, completing 21 of 34 attempts. The Roadrunners ran for another 157, dominating a Lobos defense that seemed lost at times.
The Lobos have come a long way from going win-less through entire seasons, or winning a mere one game per. But the home opener proves that they still have a long way to go. Their next two games are at UTEP on September 7 and then at Pittsburgh on September 14, before getting a bye week and finally coming home. When the Lobos return to University Stadium, it will face a UNLV team that lost their first game as well (against the Minnesota Golden Gophers) and will have had three games in between. The game will be played on Saturday, September 28 at 6 MST.
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Craig "Noodles" Neal cuts down the net for the 2013 MWC Conference champions
It's official. Previously-titled UNM men's basketball assistant coach Craig "Noodles" Neal will take the reigns as the program's head coach heading into the 2013-2014 season. Neal quickly became a favorite for the position following Steve Alford's sudden departure from the position as he accepted the title of head coach for the UCLA Bruins.
The University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team has continued to climb in the national rankings, rising to number 12 this week in the AP top 25. With only two games left in their regular season, now is the right time for the Lobos to be making that climb. On Wednesday, UNM plays at Nevada. While no team should ever be overlooked, nor any game looked past, the Wolf Pack currently sit in the basement of the Mountain West Conference rankings and have only won 12 games all season. If the Lobos can get past Nevada, the Air Force Falcons wait in Colorado Springs on Saturday night for the conference finale. If both of those games fall in the W category, things will look pretty good come Monday, when the next rankings are released, and it would be reasonable to expect a little bump before the MWC Tournament begins in Las Vegas on March 12.
The focus in the team's locker room, of course, will remain solidly committed to the sports cliché of “one game at a time” and never looking past any opponent. But that's not something that we have to pretend to indulge in, so let’s let the speculation run rampant! If UNM does what they should and wins out in Nevada and Colorado Springs, they'll have a clear path to a 1 seed in the MWC Tournament—not to mention the early rumblings of their deserving a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they can manage to run the gamut of the MWC, they'll earn the automatic berth into the Big Dance, and Selection Sunday will be an interesting day to say the least.
Of course, nothing is automatic. Nothing is promised or guaranteed. But, if the standings stay as they are, UNM will play either Nevada or Fresno State on March 13, followed by either San Diego State or Boise State on March 14. The path to the MWC Championship Game and the automatic berth looks possible. More appealing than the auto-entry to the tournament, though, is the prospect of reeling off all those wins in a row and entering March Madness with all that momentum on the side of the Cherry and Silver. While there will always be anonymous commentators who dismiss any non-major conference team's placement in the national rankings (don't even think about reading the comments on Gonzaga's recent ascent to number one if you want to retain faith in your fellow humans), the numbers are pretty solid on the side of the Lobos in this case. With an RPI of 2 right now, and a strength of schedule of 3, the data-driven amongst the selection committee have to be looking very hard at UNM.
College basketball is a game of runs and momentum. UNM taking care of business in its non-conference schedule was the first step. The Lobos are now close to finished with taking care of business during the in-conference schedule. Next up, the MWC conference tournament. After that, who knows how far these boys could go? With the right momentum, match-ups and seeding, it could be an unprecedented time.
In recent years, Bellator fighting championships has solidified its hold as the nation’s #2 Mixed Martial Arts promotion, behind only the UFC in terms of revenue and exciting fights. Well, revenue, anyway. After last Thursday’s Bellator 90, in which there were six fights and six finishes on the main card alone, Bellator has strengthened an already compelling argument that it can deliver the goods.
This coming Thursday, Feb 28—as in, the day after tomorrow—Bellator is coming to the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo. Several local fighters are on the card, including boxer Holly Holm, who will be taking her third MMA fight against Katie Merrill.
Holm comes in as a favorite, at least in terms of hometown sentiment and big fight experience. But in the world of MMA, both Holm and Merrill are newbies. Merrill has a ground game, if she can get the fight there. Holm, one would expect, wants to keep it standing. The decorated boxer has a mean kicking game as well as boxing, having ended her first MMA fight via kicks to her opponents’ legs. Holm’s world-class striking will be a lethal asset as long as she can stay on her feet. If she gets tested on her back, the hometown crowd will surely be gritting its teeth.
However evenly matched it is, Holm has the most to lose. Just ask Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who came in as a heavy favorite and ended up on the wrong end of a highlight-reel knockout. “Mo” came out with his hands low, as if he believed merely having Jeff Mayweather in his corner would grant him powers of immunity. Emanuel Newton ended that fantasy with a perfectly placed spinning backfist that hit the “off switch” as perfectly as a single punch could.
Holm, we assume, won’t be bogged down with that kind of hubris, even though she has an even better striking coach in her corner, Mike Winkeljohn. And I can attest that she will come in shape. I saw her last night at Wink’s Gym, where she trains and teaches a weekly cardio heavy bag class. (She won’t be teaching this Thursday; the gym will be closed because everyone will be at the fight).
She wasn’t there to train last night, but to hold pads for a teammate. I briefly chatted with her, and she was relaxed. She may have a lot more to lose than her opponent, but if she couldn’t handle that kind of pressure, she wouldn’t be a fighter.
Tomorrow, look here for updates on some of the other local fighters on Thursday’s Bellator card at Santa Ana Star.