ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Hundreds if not thousands of fans swarmed the New Mexico Lobosbasketball team at the Albuquerque International Sunport on Sunday,as the team returned from a huge win over the BYU Cougars.
The 83-81 victory guarantees the Lobos at least a share of theMountain West regular season title for the second year in a row.
New Mexico hadn't earned back-to-back regular season titlessince 1944 and 1945.
With a No. 1 seed in the Mountain West tournament locked up,players and fans celebrated Saturday's win once more in a crowdedairport terminal.
"The fans, they deserve it more than us. They've been loyal forso long and I'm just happy we get to bring a championship home andshare this with them," junior Darington Hobson said.
Head coach Steve Alford said the team greatly appreciates thewelcome home.
"They love playing so hard because of the people like this whohave shown up at the airport and all the support that we get,"Alford said.
Saturday the Lobos weathered all the eccentricities of a soldout Marriott Center in Provo, including a very elaborate pregameceremony.
The game was billed by many as the biggest matchup ever to beplayed in the Mountain West Conference because both teams wereranked in the top 15.
Many were also astounded by a last-second block by Hobson thatsealed the win for the Lobos.
"I didn't want to give them anything easy and I just decided togo for the block instead of the charge, and I got all ball," Hobsonsaid.
The biggest controversy during the game sprouted from aphysical exchange between Hobson and BYU's Jonathan Tavernari.
Late in the game, Tavernari claimed Hobson elbowed him. No foulwas called.
Moments later Hobson offered his hand in a gesture ofsportsmanship, but Tavernari refused.
At the end of the contest things continued to devolve as membersof the Lobos coaching staff, including Alford, had words withTavernari.
But the dust settled quickly and Tavernari came to the NewMexico locker room to offer apologizes, and Alford happilyaccepted.
"I'm so sorry coach," Tavernari said.
"I mean, you know you're one of my favorites man," Alford said.
"Coach I'm really sorry, and you know if I could, I'dapologize to the whole team," Tavernari replied.
The Lobos can win the conference title outright with a win overTCU on Wednesday or another BYU loss.
"From last night we talked about being more selfish, and thatwhole theme is let's win this thing outright. We've got one moregame to go and let's not share it with anybody," Alford said.
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