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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Another banner season for New Mexico has been tarnished by an early NCAA exit.
“Not a lot of fun,” first-year coach Craig Neal said. “We’ve been here before.”
The Cardinal (22-12) held on after New Mexico rallied to tie it midway through the second half. They got four crucial free throws from reserve Robbie Lemons and Randle in the final half-minute after New Mexico had cut the deficit to two points.
Stanford plays the Eastern Kentucky-Kansas winner on Sunday in the third round of the South Regional.
New Mexico is headed home without taking care of “unfinished business,” the school’s unofficial theme this season.
“Yeah, I think it was something more for the fans, that tag,” Bairstow said. “I think we as a team had of course expectations of postseason success, especially after last year.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done.”
Bairstow had 24 points and eight rebounds but the Lobos (27-7) got off-days from their other top threats. Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk, who together average 30 points, combined for just six.
New Mexico has been one and done the last two seasons, losing as the No. 3 seed to Harvard last year under coach Steve Alford. This season they became the first school in Mountain West Conference history to win the regular season and conference tournament in consecutive seasons.
“We’ve done about everything you can do,” Neal said. “It’s just getting better in the tournament. I just wanted to get these guys back and have another chance, it just didn’t work out for us this time.”
Except for winning Friday, Neal said he wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“Just really proud about what they did and really happy for their careers,” Neal said. “I just wish it would have ended a little better way.”
Long-range shooting was a key, with Stanford going 8 for 15 - including 3 for 3 by Anthony Brown - and New Mexico going just 4 for 21.
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