ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — BYU coach Dave Rose and The Pit, New Mexico's famed basketball arena, go way back.
Rose has plenty of bittersweet memories of games here as a player and as a coach.
When he played for the University of Houston, Rose helped lead that team to the Final Four in Albuquerque in 1983. His Houston squad lost to North Carolina State in one of the most unforgettable championship games in tournament history, when NC. State's Lorenzo Charles dunked teammate Dereck Whittenburg's desperation heave at the buzzer to propel the Wolf Pack to an improbable title.
"Dereck Whittenburg swears it was a pass, but it was a shot," Rose said Thursday. "They jump up and dunk it and (N.C. State) coach (Jim) Valvano is running around (the court). That stays in your mind for a long time, especially when you get to March and they start replaying it all the time."
Houston was the No. 1 overall seed and was riding a 25-game winning streak going into the Final Four. Nearly 28 years later, N.C. State's win is considered one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
Of course, Rose has watched a lot of BYU-New Mexico games at The Pit as well, dating back to when he joined the Cougar staff as an assistant under Steve Cleveland before the 1997-98 season.
BYU invades The Pit once again today (2 p.m., Versus) for another showdown against the Lobos. The Cougars are 17-28 all-time against New Mexico in The Pit, and Rose has a 3-2 mark as a head coach at The Pit, with his last victory here coming in 2008, a 70-69 overtime win.
"What I remember about The Pit and BYU is that these games are really highly contested games, they're usually pretty good games," Rose said. "We've had some nice wins down there and some tough losses. We're excited for another chance to go down there and play."
Because BYU (20-1, 6-0) is bolting the Mountain West Conference for the West Coast Conference next season, this could be its final trip to The Pit, though Rose said he and Lobo coach Steve Alford have talked about possibly scheduling a non-conference game in the future.
"Their scheduling is kind of up in the air," Rose said. "We'll talk about it this spring. Who knows?"
The Pit opened in 1966 and recently underwent a $60 million renovation project that began in April, 2009, and finished prior to this season.
BYU vs. New Mexico at The Pit in recent history:
Feb. 2, 1985 — BYU's Timo Saarelainen scores 41, but the Cougars lose, 76-74, despite having the ball, and a six-point lead, with 1:17 remaining.
Feb. 26, 1998 — Just a month after getting blown out by New Mexico at home, BYU does the inexplicable, upsetting the No. 16 Lobos, 83-62. Going into the game, the Cougars were a miserable 2-10 in the Western Athletic Conference standings and UNM boasted a 41-game homecourt winning streak. BYU, under first-year coach Steve Cleveland, snapped that streak in shocking fashion.
Jan. 30, 1999 — BYU fell to No. 12 New Mexico, 78-68, in a game that saw Cougar center Bret Jepsen break the rim on a dunk early in the second half that shattered the backboard and caused a 30-minute delay.
March 1, 2001 — BYU's Nate Knight grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed free throw in the game's waning seconds to seal a 72-67 win over UNM. It marked BYU's 20th victory of the season and the Cougars ended up winning the conference title and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
Jan. 26, 2004 — In a game that tipped off at 10 p.m. and finished after midnight, BYU's Mark Bigelow was charged with a technical foul for jumping off the bench to celebrate a made basket by a teammate with four seconds left in the game. In the end, UNM won, 65-63, as Lobo Danny Granger scored the game-winning basket. Bigelow explained that he thought he had heard a whistle. More than a week later, it was confirmed that the referee did indeed blow his whistle and Bigelow was vindicated. The referee was suspended by the MWC.