Hobson lifts No. 8 New Mexico over TCU, 73-66
ALBUQUERQUE: Darington Hobson had 20 points and 14 rebounds while Roman Martinez added 19 points in his final game at The Pit, leading No. 8 New Mexico to a 73-66 win over TCU on Wednesday night to secure the Lobos' first outright conference title in 16 years.
Dairese Gary added 14 and made 4 of 6 from the free throw line in the final 30 seconds as the Lobos (28-3, 14-2 Mountain West) won their 14th straight game and clinched their first outright season title since winning the Western Athletic Conference in 1994.
New Mexico also tied a school record for most wins — a 28-5 mark set in 1995-96.
Ronnie Moss led the Horned Frogs (13-17, 5-10) with 14 points while Edvinas Ruzgas and Zvonko Buljan each added 12 but TCU lost its fifth in a row to New Mexico.
The Lobos are absorbing every opponent's best shot lately, with six of the past seven games turning into a dogfight down the stretch. TCU led 29-23 late in the first half and proved to be the latest example.
The Horned Frogs stayed within striking distance throughout the second half, despite consecutive 3-pointers by Martinez that put New Mexico up 62-51 with 6:20 remaining, and got within 67-64 with a minute to play when Keion Mitchem hit a 3-pointer.
But Martinez scored inside and, after TCU's Greg Hill missed a long 3-point try, Gary began his march to the free throw line.
Hobson logged his 12th double-double of the season and seventh in the past eight games, but it was Martinez's night. As the only senior on a team that was picked fifth in the Mountain West back in the preseason, he has been the guts and glue for the Lobos.
"They picked us fifth two years in a row," Martinez declared after taking the microphone for a postgame ceremony.
Coach Steve Alford pulled Martinez out with 1.7 seconds to go, and he left to a rousing cheer, then hugged his coaches and teammates as he worked his way down the bench.
"Ro Mar-ti-nez," the crowd chanted.
At the final horn, cheering students rushed the court and lifted Martinez above the fray. Martinez held up a sign that proclaimed "Ro!" and held his index finger high as fans wearing "Ro Knows" T-shirts celebrated at his feet.
Most of the capacity crowd of 14,586 stayed to honor Martinez for his contributions to a Lobos program that went 15-17 during his freshman season. That led to former coach Ritchie McKay's firing and the arrival of third-year coach Steve Alford.
"This team took on the face and the heart of their senior leader," Alford said, drawing a big cheer.
The Lobos also trotted out the Mountain West trophy and cut down the nets at The Pit. After sharing last season's championship with BYU and Utah, they're keeping this one all to themselves.