ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — UNM is trying to track down a Lobo basketball fan who made a bad situation worse this weekend at the Pit.
The Lobo men got a big win against rival San Diego State on Saturday night and while it should have been all cheers, things got messy. A “good game” handshake between the Lobos and San Diego State Aztecs went wrong and ended with at least one fan throwing something at a player from San Diego State.
“It was unbelievable atmosphere,” said Lobos guard Hugh Greenwood following the game.
“Probably the best defensive performance of the year,” said Lobos forward Cameron Bairstow.
But despite the win, the game quickly turned sour with Lobos head coach Craig Neal corralling his team after players on both sides exchanged words and pushes.
The problems didn’t stop there though. Moments after the scuffle, Coach Neal tried to point out a fan who apparently threw something at a San Diego State player walking out of the arena. The move got the coach screaming.
“You can’t act like idiots!” said Neal as he walked out of the arena.
In a post game interview, Neal said it’s unclear what sparked the problem.
“I don’t know what happened but I was just trying to get my team out of there,” said Neal.
But in KRQE News 13 video, it’s clear that the post-game handshake went bad with San Diego State’s Winston Shepherd. Other video courtesy of ESPN2 shows that as players from both sides spoke to each other, Shepherd started exchanging words with some Lobos players. At one point, Shepherd can be seen pushing his own teammates aside, bumping into several Lobo players.
The move stirred emotions that Lobos guard Kendall Williams tried to calm. Williams put his arms between both sides and appeared to settle things. However, shortly after, the scuffle and shoving continued. It was only when Coach Neal and others stepped in that the teams were finally separated.
“My responsibility is control my team and I just got my team out of there and let them go up the hallway,” said Neal.
But tempers flared again as the Aztecs walked off the floor through the tunnel. That’s when a Lobo fan threw trash at Aztec players. That’s when Neal pointed out who he thought did it.
“There was stuff thrown and I just want to make sure that we don’t do that here,” said Neal.
It may not have been the right fan though. On video, trash comes from the right. However, the fan that was escorted out was to the left of the players.
“That’s not us,” said Neal.
Whoever it was has added another chapter to the bitter rivalry between the two teams. Last year, a San Diego State fan tweeted “fingers crossed for further infection” when Cullen Neal was in the hospital overseas with appendicitis.
Lobo guard Kendall Williams tweeted about the most recent incident Sunday, saying “It’s hard to enlighten those who can’t see the light. Winston started that scuffle and even though our fans should never throw anything at a player, it is still totally different than the NMSU fan who threw something at us while we shot free throws trying to close a game and leave.”
The UNM Athletic Department says it’s still looking for the fan who threw the trash. It says other fans with similar bad behavior have been banned from The Pit for a year. The Athletic Department says it will review video of the incident. It could have someone identified by the end of Monday.