New Mexico advances to championship game in a thriller

Just the way Steve Alford drew it up, I’m sure.

Trailing 69-64 with 17.7 seconds remaining, New Mexico hit back-to-back 3-pointers — including the game winner by junior guard Tony Snell — to escape with a shocking 70-69 victory over George Mason in Sunday night’s semifinal.

Junior Kendall Williams hit the first 3-pointer — a 25-foot pullup in transition — and the Lobos forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass to set up Snell for his game-winner, a wide open look from the left wing with 1.8 seconds remaining.

“I honestly thought we had a good chance (down three) because they had a short point guard taking it out and I was hoping (my length) would affect him on the play and it did,” said Snell, who scored a career-high 27 points.

With 53 seconds left, Snell fouled George Mason guard Sherrod Wright on a long jumpshot that became a 4-point play. That shot gave the Patriots a 67-62 lead.

“I don’t think we’re particularly playing good basketball,” said New Mexico coach Steve Alford. “That’s one early season game and we’re playing really good opponents, but we’re fighting, and that’s the thing. When you compete for 40 minutes, good things happen.”

New Mexico plays the winner of UConn and Quinnipiac in Monday’s Paradise Jam championship. Tip is set for 10 p.m. EST.