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New Mexico follows Cincinnati win with loss at St. Louis

Dec 31, 2012, 10:15 PM EDT

Jim Crews AP

Well, this isn’t the way you follow an impressive win.

Coming off a big win on the road at Cincinnati, New Mexico trailed 33-13 at halftime and left St. Louis with a 60-46 loss.

The Lobos shot 31.8-percent from the field and some of the key weapons for New Mexico had off nights. Tony Snell finished with five points on 1-for-4 shooting while New Mexico committed 21 turnovers. The 46 points are by far the lowest of the season for New Mexico, who has lost two of their past three games after starting the season 12-0.

St. Louis got 15 points from Cory Remekun and 12 from Mike McCall, Jr. It wasn’t a great offensive night for the Billikens, in fact, it was pedestrian. They shot 40.4-percent from the field and 23.8-percent from three.

The Billikens have turned it on lately, defensively, and this game makes them look even more legit. The Lobos are the fourth straight opponent that St. Louis has held under 50 points.

Mainly, it was just that bad a start for the Lobos, whose bench finished with nine total points.

Seems like a classic case of post-big-game letdown. They spent it all on one game — in fairness, one that will look a lot better than this loss to St. Louis will look, bad — and now they’ve got little left in the tank.

The loss hurts, but it’s nothing that, in the long term, New Mexico can’t get past. And it doesn’t get any easier, they have UNLV at home in their Mountain West Conference opener on Jan. 9.

Big ups to the Billikens, who get a great win against a great opponent to spruce up the non-conference resume.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

  1. freddieoh - Dec 31, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    In all honesty, New Mexico never had a chance in this one. This was one of the absolute worst-officiated games that you’ll ever see. The twenty-point SLU halftime lead was built on a perfect combination of hot shooting and turnovers (18 I think it was!?!) forced by unwhistled aggressive defense and interesting offensive, traveling, and other calls against the visiting team. Then when NM was clawing their way back into the game in the second half by taking the ball to the bucket on offense and pressuring the ball on defense, two phantom calls on defense sent the NM point guard to the bench. Shortly after that, Steve Alford was sent packing in one of the more bizarre scenarios you’ll ever see, as he spent eight full seconds trying to call a timeout before the ref finally gave it to him. He asked why it took so long to get the timeout, turned towards his team, the ref mouthed something to him, and when the coach turned back to the ref he was waiting with the first T, then hit him with the second T three seconds later. Interestingly, the next closest ref ran in and immediately restrained the ref who made the call rather than the coach. All told, a meaningless loss for NM in a joke of a game. Too bad, as it should have been an entertaining and close contest between two talented squads.

    • stanleyfrankmusial - Dec 31, 2012 at 11:58 PM

      freddieoh you sound like a knowledgeable hoops fan, so you gotta get that that’s life on the road. was the game poorly officated? perhaps. am i SHOCKED that Alford got tossed for the first time ever? you bet.

      but a meaningless loss this was not…come March the Lobos will be kicking themselves.

    • dj8705 - Jan 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      freddieoh,
      I won’t deny SLU got a bit of a home court advantage from the refs (similar to what New Mexico got last year at the Pit when they beat SLU 64-60). However, there is also no denying that the better team won this game. SLU’s defense in the first half was absolutely dominant. It left NM frustrated time and time again. The refs didn’t effect the game enough to change the outcome as SLU dominated and won by 14. NM was outplayed by a better team.

      Your comment that SLU’s first half lead was built by turnovers and hot shooting is false. SLU did not shoot all that well in the 1st half. They shot only 45% (missing several wide-open looks) and only shot 21% from 3pt range in the 1st half. For the season SLU is shooting guess what – 46% and 36% from 3pt range. Additionally, NM had only 16 turnovers in the 1st half (not 18) and they were the result of great defense by SLU. Interestingly SLU’s defense isn’t geared toward creating turnovers. They mostly just deny any easy looks and force tough shots. This left NM frustrated and when NM tried to force things they got called for traveling, offensive fouls, or made stupid mistakes.

      The Alford T situation was strange, but again that did not effect the outcome as it only gave SLU 3 extra points (they made 3/4 FTs). NM actually played better after Alford was tossed, so you could argue that it helped them.

      SLU played the type of game that would make the late Rick Majerus proud – relentless man to man defense. This is how they beat Memphis in the NCAAs last year and how they stayed with MIchigan State all game in the 2nd round. NM is a good team and I am glad SLU won this one as it will look good on their resume. Best of luck to NM the rest of the way. The better NM looks going forward, the better this win will look at the end of the year.

      • freddieoh - Jan 1, 2013 at 6:12 PM

        It’s definitely low-hanging fruit to conclude based on this one game that SLU was the far better team.

        It’s an easily observable fact that whichever team gets to play the most aggressive defense wins the game, for the reasons you identified. As a result of the quick and curious whistles against the NM defense, SLU shot much better than most NM opponents, with way more open looks than the Lobos normally allow. The Billikens got to play much more physically and aggressively, and you noted the results. My two favorite calls were when NM #10 drove the lane in first half, got contact from three defenders, fell as a result, and then got whistled for landing on the baseline strip; and when in the second half the NM PG with the awful hair got whistled for his third defensive holding (second in a row) when there was literally two feet of space between him and the dribbler.

        And yes, visitors to The Pit always complain about the home court advantage in Albuquerque. Like Mr. Musial put it, that’s life on the road. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game called so blatantly one-sided, and I remember well when Jim Crews was a lefty backcourt specialist for Coach Knight’s Hoosiers. Dave Bliss’s Pit teams came pretty close in the 90′s though – I particularly remember a suspect upset of Lute Olsen’s Arizonans.

        Actually, one of the visiting teams showing their dissatisfaction recently in Burque was Valpo, particularly as their prospects in that game dissipated in the second half as the altitude started to flatten out their jump shots and slow them down on defense. Valpo was decent, though a step below SLU, and they gave it a valiant effort but did not hide their frustration. Coach Drew even brushed right past Coach Alford in the post game handshake, only perfunctorily offering his hand in disappointment.

        Btw, did I mention that the ref who ejected Alford is a part-timer whose other job is…

        …. head baseball coach at Valpo?

        Yeah, Tracy Woodson. The same ex-StL Cardinal whose promising professional coaching career ended in 2004 when he was sh!tcanned after doing a dismal managing job in his first crack at AAA, in…

        …. Albuquerque.

        While we’re on the topic of Mr. Woodson, anyone care to guess whose games he’s reffed the most the last four years running?

        Yeah, starts with a B and ends with an illikens.

        SLU’s record in those games? 9-1. The one loss? To a ranked Xavier squad in 2010. Xavier entered that game a 4.5-point favorite. They were leading by ten with four minutes left when Mr. Woodson teed up Tu Holloway. SLU combined several foul shots the rest of the way with that vaunted Majerus unwhistled man defense to get back in it, but alas fell short to lose by two, Mr. Woodson’s efforts notwithstanding.

        So sure, by all means feel free to pat yourself on the back for the team’s great win and keep rationalizing about how the Billikens really earned this one and were the far better team. Go with that. A W is a W, right?

        After all, maybe yesterday’s W helps make Coach Crews feel better for getting run off to Evansville in the mid-80′s and missing out on Alford leading the Hoosiers to the title. Loved his classy babysitting quote btw, great stuff.

        Anyway, the Lobos needed taken down a couple pegs now that the conference season begins and the competition improves. They’re not as good offensively as they’ve been getting by with, so anything that makes them focus more will make them a better team. Should end up being a win-win for both squads – looks like NM only dropped from 8 to 9 in most RPI simulations anyway.

        Good luck the rest of the season!

      • dj8705 - Jan 1, 2013 at 7:56 PM

        Freddie,

        You are obviously pretty knowledgeable about college basketball and have followed it for quite a while. You should know that 1 ref cannot skew the results of a game so heavily as to make up for a 14 point difference. I’ll give you that if NM had gotten a few more calls the game would have been closer, but its not like its not like the refs caused NM to lose.

        I do not know Tracy Woodson from a hole in the ground, but your post seems to be pointing at some loony conspiracy theory that Woodson is somehow winning games for SLU with his reffing. A lot of college refs are bad, Woodson is probably no different. Your theory is that Woodson called a biased game against NM and for SLU because he is a baseball coach at Valpo and is upset about the Valpo basketball team supposedly getting homered at the Pit, he used to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, he has reffed more Billiken games than any other team, and the Billikens have won most of those games. I’m not sure why the Valpo baseball coach would really care enough about supposed bad calls effecting the basketball team to jeopardize his reffing career by calling a biased game. Fans get worked up about refs all the time, but I highly doubt a fellow ref would get that worked up. Woodson was a bench player for the Cardinals for 2 years and he played for the Dodgers for 3 (I suppose he is biased toward UCLA as well). He is originally from Virginia, so the only connection to St. Louis is a brief stint as a Cardinals bench player. I highly doubt he became a huge SLU fan during that time. I’m not sure why the # of SLU games he has reffed means anything. Every ref has to have a team whose games he refs the most. Does that mean they are all biased to those teams? SLU being 9-1 when he refs seems fishy. But in reality SLU has been very good at home, so 9-1 is probably about right. As for SLU beating the spread by 2.5 in the one loss to Xavier, 2.5 is an insignificant amount since a last second 3 ball could have wiped it out.

        I believe SLU is better than NM because they beat them head to head by 14 points. Most analysts say that home court gives about 4 points, so unless you think Tracy Woodson somehow gave SLU 10 points, then SLU is the better team. Respected analyst Ken Pomeroy also has SLU higher in his ratings (SLU is 31 and NM is 47). http://kenpom.com I did not say that SLU was the “far better team” as you said, but SLU is slightly better and this was a great win despite any crackpot conspiracy theories about refs with hidden agendas.

        Not that RPI is worth anything anyways because it is a flawed metric, but the RPI simulations I am seeing show NM at 19, not 9. I hope you are right though because a top 10 RPI win looks better than top 20.

    • cassanovaboy2006 - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:31 PM

      Did you not watch the game??? Alford never turned his back on the official. He argued with him got the time out then proceeded to get the first T. The second T came when Alford went charging at the official. That is the number one No No of coaching. You never charge toward the official. That is a sign of disrespect. I know the New Mexico Press said that Alford only said that was a foul. But from our vantage point behind the bench the jawing had been going on and it seemed like Alfrod wanted the T. The problem was he went at the official and got tossed. I’m not one to say he deserved or didn’t deserve the first T. He was pushing hard and finally got it. But the second T he most definitely deserved.
      The officiating was not bad after watching the tape. It wasn’t one sided at all.
      As for New Mexico, I think they may be overrated. They don’t have any real scorers other than Williams. The big guys are too stiff and need to move they stand around too much. New Mexico does play good D but they need to keep it up for 35 seconds of the shot clock and not 30.
      St. Louis is inconsistent. Yes the won this game but will they beat other teams that are good or was this a one time thing? Loe is good but he needs to keep being that leader and not just every other game.
      I think the strength of the conference gets New Mexico in the NCAA tourney if they don’t just fall apart.
      I think St. Louis has the tougher road to the NCAA tourney. A win like this helps go a long way.

  2. freddieoh - Jan 1, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    Idk, a December road loss to a quality mid major doesn’t seem anything too drastic for NM to fret over. Whether they’d won or lost this one, the Lobos should be seeded in March according to their conference play in a pretty darn healthy Mountain West. They certainly weren’t going to be seeded according to their current RPI (no. 8 iirc) anyway, so I don’t necessarily see them kicking themselves for this one.

    From a karmic standpoint, they’ve already won a couple games they probably shouldn’t have, and um yeah life on the road for teams visiting Albuquerque isn’t rumored to be too nice either (the Heisenberg Principle it ain’t) exactly.

    The more lasting effect of the loss is I expect that Coach Alford will seize on this coaching opportunity to stress the importance of maintaining composure under adversity. He does seem to love to create adversity and learning opportunities for his team. Those sort of lessons definitely resonate more after a tough loss.

    And regardless of circumstance, it’s a respectable quality non-conference win for the Billikens and Coach Crews.

  3. freddieoh - Jan 1, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    Hey Dj, not sure how to reply in the space directly below your comment. Apologies if this shows up in the wrong spot.

    Yes Woodson called a terrible game, totally one-sided in favor of the home team. That is clearly what I am saying, because that is clearly what occurred. Why do you think he continues to get hired to work games there? Yes, he had an axe to grind, for any combination of the reasons I suggested, and yes he took it out on the visitors. Personally, I think he was flustered that Alford was able to keep relatively calm for most of the game, and that’s why he pretended not to hear him repeatedly calling timeout, in a premeditated attempt to provoke him. It didn’t exactly work, but Woodson got to please himself and Coach Crews by ejecting Alford anyway and becoming the first to ever do so. I would note too that Woodson’s games this year have the highest rate of technical fouls assessed, and that was even before Monday’s game – it appears he likes this sort of encounter.

    And furhermore yes the reffing was clearly worth at least 14 points. The unbalanced regulation of the respective defenses started within the first three minutes of the game, abated somewhat for about four minutes after Alford’s ejection, and then resumed. Normally a crew seeking to control the outcome of a game picks their spots, but this was a full-press effort. Giving the benefit of arguable calls to the crew, I counted 22 individual bad calls or obvious noncalls that either took the ball away from the visiting team or directly created scoring opportunities for the home team, up until the ejection in the middle of the whistle-fueled 11-0 run that cemented the SLU victory, at a pace of roughly 7 per ten-minute interval. These are individual plays (such as the two I mentioned earlier) rather than just trends such as “the defense has been hand-checking Kendall Wiliams away from the ball for the last five possessions” and the like which obviously do also strongly influence the outcome of any given possession and thus in agglomeration the outcome of the game. This was one of the highest rates I’ve ever seen, and for one of the longest stretches. Usually this happens only over a few minutes, generally late in the game – like in the Woodson-reffed SLU comeback at home against Xavier in 2010 that I mentioned earlier. That was eight points in four minutes, why is 14 in a forty-minute game a “crackpot conspiracy theory?”

    Think about it, just about every team out there is capable of playing suffocating man defense – put these guys on a playground, and that’s what you’ll see. So what stops them from playing more aggressively in any given game? Hmmm, that’s not exactly just whistling in the wind.

    Put differently, why do you think when the Lobos started implementing their halftime adjustments and had cut the 20-point deficit to nine that the refs’ response was to call three holding calls on the visiting PG, two of which were phantom and the other highly questionable? Couple that with continuing to allow holding and hand-checking at the other end, and you get a run going back the other way. Easy.

    Hey listen, this sort of thing is what the NCAA & NBA is all about. It happens, just not usually so blatantly. Keep the home fans happy, everybody wins, I get it, no worries. But you’ve got to call a spade a spade. This game was a hatchet job,and the result can be pretty much ignored as meaningless. Put another way, the respective teams didn’t get to establish the result by playing to their full potential, so that we’re left to speculate about which team was truly better.

    SLU was favored by 4.5, which is slightly more than the standard home court. Then again, the added increment might have been due to Woodson. Don’t laugh, the line at The Pit bumps a little too when David Hall gets assigned. He’s like a Picasso compared to a chainsaw artist like Woodson though. Anyway, SLU played with more energy from the get-go, while NM, notorious slow starters, indeed started out slowly. My gut tells me that it was SLU’s night, based on more players being more involved with the game flow, and the incredible performance of Ramekin or whatever his name was – what a stellar performance from him! I also think SLU presented as both more talented and better coached than the Cincinnati team that NMex had faced in the previous game. Going back to my original post though, I feel like we were all robbed of the opportunity to see it legitimately play out, and a strong matchup of talented and well-coached squads was thwarted. We got a tainted product instead.

    Agree or disagree about how the game was called, the extent of the impact, and whether or not it was intentional, just let me ask you doesn’t it seem a little odd to you that Valpo’s head baseball coach would be allowed to referee a game involving a recent opponent of his own school’s hoops team?

    Put another way, I’m guessing that Billikens fans might be a little disturbed to turn on the tube for a road game in a couple weeks and see the Lobo soccer coach for example out there making awful calls against your team and senselessly ejecting Coach Crews?

    I can’t resist sharing one more odd Tracy Woodson fact, so indulge me on this.

    He was a two-sport star in high school and did have offers to play both baseball and basketball at various lesser college programs. But he opted to attend NC State and play baseball instead, from 1982-84. You probably already know where I’m going with this, but had he been on the basketball team during that period, he’d have been on the bench for Jimmy V’s miracle run to the title, won against Phi Slamma Jamma in, of all places, ….

    … Albuquerque, at The Pit.

    Anyway, like I said, good luck to your Billikens the rest of the way this season, and down the road there are far worse options than removing the interim tag from Coach Crews. To be honest, I can’t really stand the guy, but he can sure be a heckuva good coach, particularly at a solid program like SLU. Majerus the Great sure knew what he was doing when he reached out to him.

    • freddieoh - Jan 2, 2013 at 12:11 AM

      Cory Remekun, sorry – guy played such a great game that I wanted to be sure to get his name right, no disrespect.

    • cassanovaboy2006 - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      He is an official of the game and he is a professional. Come on Lobo fan cut the crap and quit being such a homer. The Billickens won the game fair and square. The officials called a good game even the 2nd technical was the right call. It is absurd to think that the official had it out for Alford since UNM beat his school. YOu have to be the dumbest poster to even insinuate that!!!! What crazy conspiracy do you have for your Lobo loss to South Dakota State? Really you think the officiating sucked. Just watch the tape and point out where the bad officiating was. Geez what excuses will a team or fan come up with now for getting their butts handed to them on national TV? Take your loss and move on.

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