An erroneous backcourt violation called against Anthony Mathis is the closing minute of the game proved to be the momentum killing play in a 68-66 loss against the Utah State Aggies on Saturday afternoon.
After an ice-cold first half in which he failed to make a bucket, Mathis led the Lobo comeback in the second half and scored all of his 16 points in the final 14 minutes of action. Mathis made four of six attempts from behind the arc, including a monster shot with just over five minutes to play that gave UNM their first lead of the half at 62-61.
The senior guard from West Linn, Oregon, would add another big layup at the four-minute mark to tie the game at 64, but the play of the game occurred with 31 seconds left on the clock and the Lobos up by one point.
As Mathis attempted to take the ball past midcourt, the Aggies pressured and forced Mathis to make a pass across the court to forward Carlton Bragg. Although on video replay it was clear that Mathis’ pass was not in fact backcourt, the Refs blew the play dead and gave the Aggies the ball and a chance to seal the victory with a final possession.
Guard Abel Porter drained a three-point basket off of an assist from leading scorer Sam Merrill to give the Aggies a two-point lead with 1.6 remaining on the clock. It was a stunning end to a game in which the Lobos held the second-leading team in the Mountain West Conference to under 70 points.
After reviewing the video of the play moments after the game ended, Mountain West Conference officials released the following statement regarding the questionable call by the refs on Mathis’ backcourt violation:
“After postgame video review, the Mountain West has determined the whistle for a back-court violation in the final minute of the Utah State at New Mexico men’s basketball game was incorrect. Inasmuch as the situation involved a judgment call, it was not reviewable via the instant replay monitor in accordance with NCAA Playing Rule 11-1.4”
The admission of error by the league office proved to be little solace for the thousands of Lobo fans in attendance who witnessed their team coming so close to another upset win at the Pit.
The loss drops the Lobos to 9-11 on the season and 3-5 in conference play. Losers of two straight and five of their last six, the Lobos will look to get back in the win column on the road against the Fresno State Bulldogs next Saturday.