Sports Desk: Alford and Neal return to ‘The Pit’ Tuesday

FOX New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (FOX) – The last time Steve Alford and Craig Neal were involved in a basketball game at The Pit in Albuquerque they were leading and rooting for the home team.

Tuesday will be different as the two former Lobo head coaches come to town wearing the colors of the Nevada Wolfpack. Alford, who is in his first season as the Wolfpack head coach, knows how it is for opponents coming in and never envisioned he would be on that side of things.

“It’s the circles and the changes that life throws at you,” said Alford. “I will say this, no one has a greater appreciation of ‘The Pit’, nobody has a greater appreciation of UNM basketball, Lobo basketball and what it means to play in New Mexico.” In six seasons at New Mexico Alford won six Mountain West titles, four regular seasons and two tournaments.

Alford, his assistant Neal and Lobos Head Coach Paul Weir all worked together at Iowa. Tuesday night’s game is at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State can heal a few bumps and bruises as they wait until Saturday to play. The Aggies grew their win streak to 15 games with an 84-82 win against Utah Valley this past Saturday.

Jabari Rice basket at the horn did the trick. It’s a game the Aggies could have easily lost and head coach Chris Jans hopes it is a learning experience for his team.

“We got to get our kids to buy into, we’re lucky, we’re fortunate,” said Jans. “That’s our wakeup call. That’s our reset button. A lot of coaches and media and players and analysis people talk about they need to lose a game to refocus.”

The defending WAC champion Aggies are hosting Rio Grande Valley on Saturday.

On the ball field, Lobo baseball is 2-2 on the season after suffering a heartbreaking second defeat. Down to their final strike and trailing Gonzaga 2-0, Lobos senior Justin Watari hit a bases-clearing triple to give the Lobos a 3-2 advantage.

Watari later scored on a passed ball as the Lobos picked up four runs in the top of the ninth inning. Gonzaga answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs to win in walk-off fashion 5-4. The game was the Lobos finale at the College Baseball Classic in Surprise, Arizona.

Also, UNM junior pitcher Aaron Makil is the Mountain West pitcher of the week. In his first start as a Lobo, Makil helped his team shutout BYU 2-0 last Saturday by tossing six shutout innings and allowing only three hits, all singles.

New Mexico State slugger Nick Gonzales is the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the week. Gonzales is also the WAC Player of the Week. Gonzales batted .571 for the week with four home runs and 17 runs batted in.

In the Octagon, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones believes he was fighting too conservatively in the early rounds of his title fight against Dominick Reyes.

“I learned a lot in my last fight,” said Jones. “I think I was trying to fight too smart. I was taking those early rounds too slow. I spent a little too much time in the feel out process. I think moving forward I will get back to getting after it. You have to think of yourself as someone who is invincible when it comes to hand to hand combat. That last fight was definitely very humbling for me. It was something that I needed to push me harder.”

KRQE News 13 Sports caught up with Jones at UFC Fight Night Rio Rancho last weekend.

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