ST. LOUIS - A year ago, Ivy League champion Harvard ushered fourth-seeded New Mexico out of the NCAA Tournament in the second-round opener. This year, it was Stanford, the Harvard of the West, that opened the trap door to drop the seventh-seeded Lobos out of the tournament, 58-53, Friday at Scottrade Center.
Many had UNM (27-7) pegged as a team that could make a deep run behind seniors Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams and 7-foot junior center Alex Kirk forming a physical frontcourt pairing with Bairstow. But Stanford (22-12) ran off 17 straight points for an early 20-4 lead, and when New Mexico fought back to tie the score at 45 with 10:07 left, Chasson Randle hit a three-pointer to start a 7-0 surge that put the Cardinal back in control.
"We took that play and carried the momentum the rest of the game," said Randle, who led Stanford with 23 points.
The Cardinal also got 10 points each from Stefan Nastic and Anthony Brown, who played an even bigger role on the defensive end. Brown hounded Williams, the Mountain West player of the year last season, into 1-for-9 shooting for just three points to go with five assists. On the interior, Stanford's size limited Kirk to three points and denied him any first-half shots.
Only Bairstow, who totaled 27 points and eight rebounds, played well for the Lobos, who have made a habit of NCAA disappointment. After they tied it at 45, the Lobos went 1-for-13 from the field, missed two foul shots and committed three turnovers before Hugh Greenwood's three-pointer cut the deficit to 54-50 with 1:10 left.
Stanford's Brown played AAU ball with UNM's Williams in junior high and drew on that experience. "I just wanted to use my length," the 6-6 Brown said. "I had an understanding of his tendencies. He didn't hit his first couple of shots and got passive and started looking for others . . . I felt I could get inside his head a little bit."
A disconsolate Williams said, "I had good looks. I just couldn't find the hoop, and that's the end of that story."