A poor shooting team for much of the season, Mountain West champion New Mexico won 29 games due in large part to their ability to get to the foul line and defend.
That formula didn’t work on Thursday night however, as Harvard shot 52.4% from the field and upset the Lobos 68-62 in Salt Lake City. New Mexico shot just 37.5%, and star guards Tony Snell and Kendall Williams struggled to find their shot.
Snell scored just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting and he was more still productive than Williams. The Mountain West Player of the Year hit just one of his six shot attempts and failed to tally a single assist.
If not for bigs Alex Kirk (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (15 points, nine rebounds) the margin of defeat would have been even larger for the Lobos. New Mexico still had its chances in the second half, taking the lead on multiple occasions, but the Lobos could never take control of the game.
After falling behind Harvard would simply head down to the other end of the floor and retake the lead, with point guard Siyani Chambers dishing out seven assists and four players reaching double figures.
New Mexico’s loss caps a bad two days for the Mountain West, as the Lobos join Boise State and UNLV as teams headed home before the first weekend of the NCAA tournament has even been completed. March is about match-ups, “styles make fights” or whatever saying you prefer, but rightly or wrongly many use the tournament as the ultimate measuring stick for conference strength.
With much of their rotation expected to return to Albuquerque next season and the addition of some talented newcomers (and transfers), Steve Alford’s team will be one of the preseason favorites to win the Mountain West.
But that designation does them no good on this night, as a New Mexico squad that entered the tournament with the look of a group capable of going deep into the tournament returns home after just one game.