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Lobo streak is nevermore

Maybe the seven-hour bus trip to Las Vegas, followed by the plane flight to Albuquerque on Wednesday, actually served to loosen them up. Perhaps it was because senior Justin Weidauer, who seems to have been playing at BYU since the Eisenhower Administration, had the game of his life. Or maybe it's because nobody on the right side of reality actually thought they had a chance.

Whatever the case, Thursday night at The Pit, the Cougars showed no signs of fatigue, intimidation or trepidation against league-leading New Mexico. Instead, they pulled off one of the most astonishing wins in WAC history, beating the Lobos 83-62. Bring up the background music. Roll the credits. As the 1997-98 season nears its end, the Cougars have pulled off a "Hoosiers.""The bottom line is, this sort of thing is the eternal hope of coaching and playing," said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. "That's why we play 'em. Hey, upsets happen. They happen every night."

True enough. They just don't happen every night at BYU.

"Somebody, something was with us tonight," said Weidauer.

Indeed, BYU beating the No. 16-ranked Lobos is one of those events that belongs in the Weekly World News, alongside the headlines that say, "Satan Seen Hovering Over City!" or "Elvis Spotted in Saginaw Burger King!"

"Aw," joked assistant coach Dave Rose, "there've been bigger upsets in this building."

If anyone knows about big upsets, it's Rose. The former Dixie College coach was a member of the 1983 University of Houston team that was beaten by North Carolina State in the NCAA Championship Game at The Pit. This time, Rose was on the winning side. The Lobos entered the game with the second-longest home streak in the nation (41 games). And though they were missing injured guard Royce Olney, they were still favored by 20 points. Talk about your mercy killings.

If anyone had reason to be shocked, it was the BYU coaches. Due to the snowstorm that hit Salt Lake on Wednesday, they were forced to bus to Las Vegas in order to get a flight to Albuquerque. Their planned Wednesday practice went by the wayside. Meanwhile, the coaching staff and team virtually ignored preparations for New Mexico. That was because whatever the outcome against New Mexico, they need to beat UTEP on Saturday to make the WAC Tournament. The coaches said before the game they would play their key players only as long as they were close, then rest them for Saturday.

Instead, the top players stayed in until the final moments, blowing New Mexico out. It wasn't a nail-biter. It wasn't a matter of a few breaks. The Cougars shot 68 percent from the field for the first half, 54 percent for the game. They made 12 of 22 three-point shots, out-rebounded the Lobos by 11, committed only 11 turnovers, had six steals and dominated New Mexico in every important area.

The game got off to an odd start with Weidauer - not known as a particular 3-point threat - tying his career mark for points in a game before the first half was over (17). He made seven of his first eight shots and three of four treys, finishing with a game-high 22 points. BYU made seven of its first 10 three-point shots.

Clearly, something strange was going on. Bret Jepsen blocked New Mexico's Kenny Thomas' shots twice, the first of which led to a 46-28 lead at the break.

There was a fleeting moment in the early second half when The Lobos made three straight three-pointers, cutting the lead to 11. But unlike virtually every other game this year, the Cougars didn't have a long scoreless stretch. When the Lobos got within eight with 16:45 remaining, Weidauer hit a three, Selleaze reversed and drew a foul for a three-point play, and the Cougars were back ahead by 14. Danny Bower made five treys, four in the second half when the Lobos were trying to mount a comeback. Mekeli Wesley used his jump-hook to get 19 points.

Indeed, it was a night when the Cougars could do no wrong. Ron Selleaze lost the ball driving inside, but it fell right into Jepsen's hands for a score. Bart Jepsen missed a slam but the ball merely sprang back to Brian Hamilton at the top of the key.

Not only did the Cougars take out the Lobos, they took out their announcer. Bower dived onto press row after a loose ball, taking out longtime Lobos radio announcer Mike Roberts in the process.

Thus, the Cougars took a major step forward in their plan to return to prominence. Even so, beating New Mexico didn't guarantee a berth in the WAC Tournament. That all depends on Saturday's game against UTEP.

Said Weidauer, "This is nice. We'll enjoy it tonight, but it won't mean anything if we lose to UTEP."

GAME NOTES: New Mexico's 41-game home win streak began Feb. 10, 1996 against UTEP. The last team to beat the Lobos at home was Utah, in January 1996 . . . BYU improved to 3-10 in the WAC and 8-20 overall; New Mexico is 11-2 and 21-5.