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Senior guard Tim Jacobs screams after loosing to Rice at WisePies Arena Saturday night. Rice's Egor Koulechov sunk a technical free throw with 0.01 seconds left on the clock beating out the Lobos 90-89.
Senior guard Tim Jacobs screams after loosing to Rice at WisePies Arena Saturday night. Rice's Egor Koulechov sunk a technical free throw with 0.01 seconds left on the clock beating out the Lobos 90-89.

Men's basketball: Botched timeout costs Lobos in loss to Rice

New Mexico now has its own Chris Webber moment.

Holding a 17-point second-half edge, Saturday night at WisePies Arena UNM got sloppy and allowed Rice to surge back. It led to the Owls tying the game at 89 with 13 seconds left.

Guard/forward Egor Koulechov, who helped orchestrate the Rice comeback, took a game-winning shot but missed as time ticked off the clock. Players from both squads hurried to the ball with UNM appearing to snag it.

Then Lobo forward Tim Williams mistakenly called a timeout his team did not have in the final moments of Saturday night’s nonconference home finale against Rice, committing a technical foul in the process.

Koulechov converted the ensuing free throw with .1 left on the clock and secured the stunning 90-89 victory over UNM. It marred an otherwise unbeaten home nonconference schedule for the Lobos.

The sequence was reminiscent of a 1993 Final Four game when Webber, a member of Michigan’s famed Fab Five, called a timeout with none remaining against North Carolina. It cost the Wolverines a national title that year.

UNM head coach Craig Neal put the loss on himself and gave credit to Rice for the win.

“Guys just thought it was going to be an easy win,” Neal said. “And I told them, I said anybody that plays with energy and effort can beat anybody, and they did that. That's my fault. I didn't have my team ready and we'll just have to get ready.”

No UNM players were available for comment after the game due to early morning travel arrangements for Hawaii, where the Lobos (7-3) will play in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22-25.

Koulechov scored a career-high 32 points in a game. Koulechov had been held to eight points in the Owls’ previous game, an exhibition against the University of St. Thomas, an NAIA team.

When Koulechov attempted the free throw to seal the game, it was as is the play went in slow motion, he said.

“It's a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “I'm not going to lie to you, 14,000 fans screaming at you to miss. Honestly when it left my hand I felt like I missed it. I said like 'Oh, crap' in my head, but I saw it going in.”

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Rice head coach Mike Rhoades said he’s been a part of this type of scenario before when he coached at Randolph-Macon. He’s also been on the losing side of crazy finishes, too. Moments like that is what makes basketball a players’ game, he said.

"I want our guys to have so much fun playing college basketball, as I did when I went to school. We had a blast. I want them to enjoy it all the time.

Saturday’s UNM-Rice duel had all the makings of a trap game: an opponent with a losing record, a early morning flight to Hawaii the next day for a tournament, and the chance to go undefeated in home nonconference contest – a goal Neal repeated over the last few weeks.

UNM’s starting lineup struggled through the early going in the first half and trailed Rice 12-5 through the first six minutes. Neal found himself so frustrated that he didn’t wait for the media timeout to talk about it.

All five starters came out with sophomores Joe Furstinger and Xavier Adams along with freshmen Anthony Mathis, Jordan Hunter and Nikola Scekic entering the game. Even that group had difficulties with a turnover and an air ball as the shot clock expired, but then started clicking.

The Lobos cut the margin to 19-15 but then surrendered a 7-0 run to Rice. From there Hunter, a guard, scored five straight points to provide a spark and the starters returned to the floor and got rolling. With the score 33-25, UNM rallied to 14 straight points to take control. Reserves Hunter and Adams, also a guard, shared time in the run as well.

UNM kept firing strong coming out of the half and eventually built its advantage 66-49, the largest in the game, before Rice chipped away. UNM reverted back to its poor play and in some instances tried to get fancier than it should, trying for alley-oops instead of layups in a couple instances.

The Lobos committed nine second-half turnovers after giving up nine in the first 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Koulechov ensured Rice stayed in the game. He netted 16 of Rice’s final 43 points, including five that helped kickstart the run and then another 11 in the final 2:46. At one stretch Rice ran off 10 straight points, cutting it to five at 80-75 and then keeping pace to a 86-82 margin.

UNM’s only points in the final 1:30 were guard Elijah Brown free throws, and he went 3 of 4 over that span. Koulechov, meanwhile, hit eight points.

The Lobos played their worst 3-point defense of the season as the Owls made 11 triples on 27 attempts, or 40.7 percent. They allowed Rice to shoot 45.3 percent from the field (29 of 64) while making 50.8 percent of their shots (30 of 59). UNM had 40 rebounds to Rice’s 31.

UNM did place four players in double-figure scoring. It was the usual suspects. Brown scored 21, forward Tim Williams added 18 with nine rebounds, and guard Cullen Neal had 16 before fouling out. Center Obij Aget recorded 11 points and seven rebounds.

After Koulechov’s 32, guard Marcus Evans netted 21 points and eight rebounds, while guard Connor Cashaw scored 14 off the bench for the Owls.

J.R. Oppenheim is the assistant sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s basketball and women’s soccer. Contact him at or on Twitter @JROppenheim.

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