New Mexico's Lamont Long has his game-winning routine in a groove.
A week after hitting a winning jumper at the Western Athletic Conference tournament, Long did it again in the first round of the the NCAA tournament.
Long's shot in the lane with 5.5 seconds left Thursday night gave the Lobos a 61-59 victory over Missouri at the West Regional.
"I was trying to get fouled and didn't," Long said. "I just tried to get to the hoop, threw up a shot and I happened to make it."
New Mexico (25-8) moved into the second round for the fourth straight year.
After Long beat Missouri's John Woods on the go-ahead basket, the Tigers (20-9) got the ball upcourt and guard Brian Grawer put up an off-balance 3-pointer that came up short.
Missouri's bench complained vehemently that the clock didn't stop after Long's basket. The rules say the clock must stop after each made basket in the final minute of the game.
Referee Frank Scagliotta issued a statement after the game.
"We can't correct it ... unless we have definite knowledge (there is an error)," he said. "No official noticed it, no one noticed it hadn't stopped because the ball came in so quick."
Missouri coach Norm Stewart was reluctant to talk about the clock controversy.
"I think everybody knows the rules and the constraints on what we can say," he said. "This is basically a no comment area. It is hard for the players. It is hard for me because ... they put a lot into the season."
Long finished with 17 points and bailed out New Mexico, which nearly squandered a late six-point lead.
| New Mexico's Lamont Long walks off a hero and gets mobbed by teammate Roland Hannah. (AP)|
Lobos star Kenny Thomas, who scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half, picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a 30-second span late in the game. The Tigers converted the fouls into a three-point play by 6-foot-11, 335-pound center Monte Hardge and a pair of free throws by freshman Keyon Dooling that tied the game at 59 with 1:31 left.
Missouri had three chances to take the lead in the final minute. Dooling missed a driving layup after a steal. Teammate Albert White rebounded the miss and missed a dunk, and Dooling gave the Lobos the final shot when he missed on the baseline drive.
White led the Tigers with 16 points and Woods scored 11.
With Thomas standing on the sideline for New Mexico's last possession, the Lobos' worked the shot clock down before finally handing the ball to Long with 11 seconds left. The Lobos cleared the lane for the junior, who hit a similar shot in the final seconds of New Mexico's 51-49 win over Rice in the WAC quarterfinals last week.
"There's nothing clever about it. We just get it to Lamont and let him find a way to make a basket," said New Mexico coach Dave Bliss.
Ninth-seeded New Mexico led by as many as 12 points in the first half, when Thomas scored 14 points.
Thomas, a mobile 6-foot-8, 250-pound center, used his quickness and deft shooting touch to get around and over Hardge, the Missouri senior who looks and moves more like an NFL defensive lineman than a Division I basketball player.
Eighth-seeded Missouri used an 11-0 run in the first six minutes of the second half to take a 39-36 lead with 14:54 remaining.
New Mexico countered with a 10-2 run that started with a 3-pointer by Long. After Clarence Gilbert made a layup for the Tigers, Kevin Henry hit a 3-pointer, Long sank a short jumper and Thomas hit two free throws for the Lobos.
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