ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- New Mexico kept Connecticut from winning the lone tournament it could have won this season.
Tournament MVP Kendall Williams scored 15 points and the Lobos staved off a late UConn rally en route to a 66-60 victory in the championship game of the Paradise Jam.New Mexico (4-0) led by 10 points early in the second half, and by nine with as little as 7:11 left. But UConn (4-1) went on a 10-0 run and took over the lead after three Ryan Boatright free throws with 2:23 to play.However, the Lobos countered with a 9-0 run, paced by five points from Hugh Greenwood, then made all four foul shots in the final 39 seconds to seal the victory."Both teams really fought for three games in four days," said New Mexico coach Steve Alford. "We've started the season doing a really good job at the foul line. We're getting there often, and we're making them."Indeed, the Lobos hit all 21 free throws on Monday. UConn went to the line just nine times, hitting seven."Anytime you can beat your opponent 21-7 at the line, you're probably going to win a lot of games," Alford noted.UConn won the event the last time it participated, in 2008. The Huskies are barred from postseason tournaments this season due to low Academic Progress Rate scores in recent years.The Lobos owned a 30-27 halftime lead and opened the latter half on a 9-2 run. Shabazz Napier scored the Huskies' next 13 points to get them back to within four, but the Lobos would take a 53-44 advantage following a Williams layup with 7:11 left."We can't wait until we get down 10 or nine to start playing," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "It starts by rebounding and defending. In the first half, we defended, but we couldn't score. Shabazz turned it up, but we need more guys to contribute. It just can't be him."Napier led UConn with 23 points, Boatright added 12 points and Omar Calhoun 10."(UConn) puts a lot of pressure on you, especially your defense," said Alford. "To hold them to nine free throw attempts and make them really have to work for baskets, that's the key. If we can keep getting better there, I know the offense will eventually come around."Greenwood scored 12 points for the Lobos, Tony Snell added 11 and Alex Kirk 10."We just didn't make the plays down the stretch like we've been making," said Ollie. "They went to the free throw line a bunch, we didn't get there, conversely, and that's the ballgame."