Stevens: Alford's Lobos Find 70-69 Miracle Win In Paradise

Nov. 18, 2012


New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - Paradise Jam - U.S. Virgin Islands

Sunday: New Mexico Lobos 70, George Mason 69

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Maybe you should call this "The Lobo Miracle in Paradise."

Maybe KKOB's Scott Didrickson said it best: "I don't' know how, but they pulled it off. It was hard to believe the Lobos pulled that out."

The New Mexico Lobos scored six points in the final 12 seconds to stun George Mason 70-69 in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam Tournament being played in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Lobos were on the ropes, down 69-64 with 17 seconds to play. But Kendall Williams launched in an impossible 28-foot trey with 11.9 seconds to play and then stole the in-bounds pass with 11 seconds to play. That steal led to a Tony Snell trey with two seconds to play.

The Lobo rally wasn't exactly impossible because it happened. But George Mason was an in-bounds away from the Paradise Jam championship game. They were doomed by the quick hands of Williams and the clutch shooting by Snell.

"We found a way to win," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "We made two unbelievable palys down the stretch and now we get a chance to play in the championship."

The Patriots looked like they had sealed the win after Sherrod Wright hit two free throws with 17 seconds to play to go up 69-64. The Patriots, a few seconds earlier, missed the front end of a one-and-one and the chance to go up by seven points with 26 seconds to play

The Lobos led the game only one time in the second half - after Snell's dagger.

"This was a great win," said Alford. "It was a very good team we beat in George Mason. It was the best they shot the ball all year. We didn't play very good basketball, but we are 3-and-0.

"The second half, not a lot went well for us."

True -- but in the final 12 seconds, things went unbelievably well for the Lobos.

The Lobos advance to play the winner of Sunday's game between UConn and Quinnipiac. Williams was the spark for the last-second heroics, but Snell had another huge game for the Lobos finishing with 27 points and four assists. He was 8-of-12 from the field and 7-of-7 from the line.

The Patriots had control of the scoreboard for 19 minutes and 58 seconds - earned with solid defense, key drives and 11 treys. UNM outscored George Mason by seven from the free-throw line (17-22).

Snell was joined in double figures by Williams with 14 points and four assists and Cameron Bairstow with 10 points. Alex Kirk had nine rebounds for UNM. Wright had 22 points for George Mason. The Patriots won the glass battle, 35-30.

Second Half: New Mexico Lobos 42, George Mason 41

George Mason broke the 28-all halftime knot with a layup by Sherrod Wright. Snell did the same for UNM to produce a 30-30 tie. The Patriots then went up 33-30 and 35-32 going into the 15:43 media break.

Patriot Johnny Williams scored to make it 37-32 and George Mason had its biggest lead since 6-0. Bairstow hit two at the line to quickly cut that lead to 37-34. Wright came back with a trey and George Mason was back up by six, 40-34. Snell hit two free throws, but G-Mason came back with another trey: 43-36. Snell answered from afar: 43-39.

At the 11:24 break, George Mason was up 48-41. The Patriots were hot from 3-point range shooting 10-of-20 (50 percent). UNM was 4-of-12 from long range. Snell had 16 points at that clock setting.

George Mason's big man, Bennett, stepped outside to hit a long jumper and the Patriots had their biggest lead at 50-42. Williams hit a jumper to make it 50-44 and Banyard hit two free throws for UNM: 50-46.

A Snell trey made it 52-49. A Snell jumper made it 54-51. The Lobo wing then hit three free throws to pull UNM to 56-54. George Mason didn't crack. The Patriots had a nice mix between long shots and drives to the hoop. Byron Allen scored on a drive: 58-54. Walker was called for an illegal screen and Allen used the turnover to produce a single free throw: 59-54.

UNM got a bad break when Williams was called for a charge at 4:47 and Mason had the ball. They converted a jumper: 61-54. Greenwood then hit a big trey: 61-57. That count carried into a break at 3:26. George Mason had ball possession.

The Lobos kicked up their defensive intensity and Allen had to force a jumper over Snell that missed. UNM's Kirk came down and hit a trey: 61-60. The Patriots got a put back by Johnny Williams to go back up 63-60. UNM called time at 1:35 - down three points.

The Lobos needed a basket. George Mason needed a stop. UNM got the bucket from Bairstow on a put back: 63-62 at 1:13.

George Mason then got a huge trey by Sherrod Wright - and he was fouled by Snell. The Patriot converted and George Mason was up 67-62 with 53 seconds to play. Alford called time at the 47-second mark and chatted with an official. UNM came out and Greenwood turned it over.

George Mason had a chance to go up by seven, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Williams raced the court and jammed it down to cut the gap to 67-64. UNM was forced to foul again at the 17-second mark and Wright hit two: 69-64. Williams made it interesting with a long trey at the 11.9 mark. UNM called a timeout, down 69-67.

UNM came out pressing with Snell in front of the ball. UNM's Williams got the steal. The ball ended up in Snell's hands and he banged in a trey. The Lobos won - 70-69.

First Half: New Mexico Lobos 28, George Mason 28

The George Mason Patriots hit six 3-pointers in the half which helped make up for a 30 percent shooting effort. UNM did better at 39.1 percent, but the two semifinalists marched into the locker room in a deadlock.

The Lobos had 11 turnovers in the half and were outrebounded 19-16. The Patriots also got 16 bench points to four for the Lobos. Snell led UNM with nine points and Williams had seven. Bairstow paced UNM on the glass with four boards. Vertrail Vaughns had seven points with two treys for George Mason.

The Patriots jumped up 6-0 and UNM rallied to an 8-6 lead and then it was pretty much back and forth throughout the first 20 minutes. George Mason went up 21-18 before UNM got back-to-back treys from Snell and Walker to slip ahead 24-21. The Patriots came back to go up 26-24 and then UNM clawed back up 28-26 on two Snell free throws at 1:37.

Vaughns hit free throws with 35 seconds to go to form another tie. The Lobos and the Patriots marched into halftime holding a 28-28 knot.