ALBUQUERQUE — Camelot took one right in the kisser.
The uplifting story that has been The University of New Mexico’s men’s basketball team took an ugly turn in more ways than one on Wednesday night in The Pit.
The Lobos blew a six-point lead in the final minute and lost 73-71 to Boise State, a loss that would have cemented them as a bona fide contender in the Mountain West race. They turned the ball over three times in that span and missed two shots that would have tied it or taken the lead in the waning seconds.
But that’s not the worst part.
Not even close.
Seething over his players’ behavior after the game, UNM head coach Paul Weir couldn’t even explain what took place when both benches cleared after Lobos senior Joe Furstinger shoved a Broncos player as the buzzer sounded. Players from both teams started a shoving match that escalated into at least one fan throwing a bottle of water onto the floor.
It took at least a minute for officials and coaches to separate the teams, neither of which exchanged postgame handshakes. The Lobos were the first to exit the floor, leaving Boise State to gesture to the crowd amid a shower of boos from the fans.
“The end of the game was completely unacceptable and I apologize to fans, the Mountain West, to Boise State University, their whole staff, the program,” Weir said. “I didn’t see everything that happened but just completely unacceptable behavior. I’m sick about it. As sick as I am about the game.”
No players were made available to the media after the game, but Weir said some sort of disciplinary action is likely to take place in the coming days, be it from himself or the MWC.
The ending encapsulated a disastrous second half for the Lobos (12-13, 7-5), who were trying to move over .500 for the first time since mid-November. A win would have moved them to within a game of Boise State (20-4, 10-2) for second place in the conference.
Instead, fans and players alike left as frustrated as Weir was angry and embarrassed.
The Broncos dominated the glass, enjoying a 41-26 rebounding advantage that was comically unbalanced at the offensive end. Boise State’s Chris Sengfelder had seven offensive rebounds by himself; the entire UNM roster managed just three.
“Their offensive rebounding really, really hurt us and our offensive ineptitude just got us in the second half,” Weir said.
The Lobos led 40-29 at halftime and led by 10 with seven minutes remaining in the game. For most of the night they did everything they usually do in wins; get out rebounded but make up for it by forcing turnovers and pushing the pace.
The Broncos eventually slowed that pace to a crawl, allowing Sengfelder and center Zach Haney to enforce their will in the paint while 6-foot-7 guard Chandler Hutchison dominated to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Hutchison had a steal and a dunk to trim the UNM lead to 71-70 with 22 seconds left, then a horrendous pass by Anthony Mathis on an inbounds under the Boise State basket allowed Hutchison to score the go-ahead bucket on a floater in the lane with 16 seconds remaining.
Antino Jackson rushed a 3-pointer at the other end for the Lobos, missing badly with 14 seconds left. One last attempt at tying it ended with a Mathis miss on a wild shot with one second left. As Boise State’s Marcus Dickinson cleared the rebound, Furstinger shoved him hard to the floor as the buzzer sounded, setting off a fray that got heated in an instant.
Security guards and ushers ran onto the floor as most of the bench from UNM was in the middle of the scrum almost immediately. Weir didn’t comment specifically about any one player, saying he needed to review the incident on tape before taking any action.
As for what led to the implosion at the end, Weir said the roof started to cave in when Jackson turned the ball over immediately after a Hutchison jumper ignited a 7-0 run that got the Broncos within 64-59 with six minutes left. That miscue — one of seven in the second half and 11 for the game — magnified the poor play from the senior point guard.
Perhaps the only thing Weir despises more than than a lack of effort or hustle is a turnover by his guards.
“It really bothered me, for him to have four turnovers in 21 minutes as a point guard — not good enough,” Weir said. “I felt that then. I really didn’t like the vibe then.”
It led to poor shot selection on the offensive end as the Lobos went from shooting 55 percent in the first half to 35 percent in the second.
“As the game went down the wire we didn’t have great poise at all at the offensive end,” Weir said.
Three Lobos finished in double figures, led by 18 from Mathis. He had four of the team’s 11 3-pointers. Dane Kuiper had 11 points and Jackson 10, but Kuiper was a nonfactor most of the way after he scored 10 of his points in the first five minutes of the game.
He did finally manage to snap out his extended shooting funk, hitting a 3-pointer early on the end a horrendous stretch of 18 straight missed shots from the outside.