Technical difficulties? Only in the TV broadcast.
The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team picked up its biggest win of the young season on Monday night, holding off nationally ranked Connecticut 66-60 in the championship game of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
UConn (4-1) entered as the 21st ranked team in the country.
“One of the things we haven’t done is go away from home and win a tournament,” said UNM head coach Steve Alford, adding that one of the things the win over UConn told him about his team is that it has plenty of fight.
“And I think that we’re getting better,” he said. “We’ve said all along that we’ve got some missing pieces.”
The Lobos (4-0) won three games in four days to capture the tournament title. They got 15 points from junior guard Kendall Williams and 12 points with seven rebounds from point guard Hugh Greenwood in Monday’s game.
It was a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Greenwood that put the Lobos ahead to stay with 2:12 remaining. Coming off a screen, he put UNM up 56-55 with what proved to be the most critical bucket of the game. It snapped an 11-0 Huskies run.
The Lobos answered that run with an 8-0 spurt of their own. UConn never recovered.
New Mexico led by as many as 10 points in the second half before the Huskies rallied back into the lead in the game’s final three minutes. Of course, most of the TV audience back home missed all that when the feed from CBS Sports Network was lost for roughly 20 minutes due to storms in the islands.
By the time the broadcast came back, much of UNM’s momentum was lost as UConn guard Shabazz Napier brought his team back. The junior finished with a game-high 23 points and was one of three Huskies in double figures.
The Lobos’ bench outscored UConn’s 18-4. Eight of those points came from backup center Cameron Bairstow, six from seldom-used forward Chad Adams.
Making his season debut was Jamal Fenton. The senior guard was suspended for the first three games of the season for violating an NCAA rule. He hit the first shot he took and finished with four points.
Tony Snell had 11 points and Alex Kirk 10 for the Lobos. Snell struggled to regain the form of his 27-point outburst against George Mason in the tournament’s semifinals. He converted just 3 of 10 shots from the floor as he and UNM had trouble finding a rhythm in the early going.
“It’s trips like this that bring out a lot of weaknesses and we found those,” Alford said. “It’s good to find those and win three games.”
The Lobos return home for three straight games in The Pit. The first comes later this week against Idaho.