ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was the game New Mexico fans marked on the calendar at the beginning of the season.
Former Lobo head coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal returned to New Mexico on Tuesday and left with an 88-74 victory for their new squad Nevada. Before the game, Alford was introduced and received a chorus of boos.
The boos were louder for Neal, who is an assistant to Alford at Nevada. It’s the same role Neal played in New Mexico before being elevated to head coach upon Alford’s departure for UCLA.
“When you are blessed to be here for six years like I was and Coach Neal for ten, you understand what that Pit is,” said Alford. “Whether it was booing or whether it was going to be any ovation, I expected it to be loud. I’d still rather not to play here, because it’s hard, because I root for New Mexico every game other than we are playing them.”
Nevada led for over 80% of the game and never seemed to be in any real danger of falling to the Lobos. Nevada shot 50% from the field while the Lobos only made a little under 39% of their shots.
Some fans grew frustrated with the game as one even tossed a shoe out on the court. For the Lobos, the loss was only their third at home this season, but second straight at ‘The Pit.’
“Every time we seemed like we were on the verge, somebody stepped up on their team and made a big shot and you have to give them credit for being able to go on the road and shoot that way and make those kinds of shots,” said Lobos head coach Paul Weir.
JaQuan Lyle, who has struggled of late, bounced back to lead the Lobos in scoring with 16 points. Vance Jackson contributed 15 points for the Lobos while Keith McGee and Makuach Maluach had 11 points each.
Nevada’s Jalen Harris was the high scorer of the game with 26 points. With the loss, the Lobos dropped to 6-9 in the Mountain West and 17-11 overall. Nevada improved to 10-5 in league play and 17-10 overall. Nevada will host Fresno State Saturday while the Lobos travel to Boise State Sunday at 2 p.m.