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Isaac Brekken, Associated Press
New Mexico's head coach Steve Alford talks with his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UNLV

PROVO — The Mountain West Conference late Monday issued a public reprimand to New Mexico head basketball coach Steve Alford for his "unduly provocative language toward an opposing student-athlete" in the postgame handshake line following the Lobos' 83-81 win over BYU on Saturday.

After BYU's Jonathan Tavernari and Alford exchanged greetings in the line, the two continued to exchange words and then Alford turned back toward Tavernari and said, "You are an (expletive)."

In the handshake line, Tavernari was still upset over an elbow he took from Lobos junior Darrington Hobson near midcourt in the final minute right after a timeout had been called.

During Monday's MWC weekly teleconference, Alford said he had just complimented Tavernari on an outstanding career following his final game at home, but that Tavernari "was a competitor and he didn't want to hear that at that time, and then we just exchanged words. It was unfortunate, it happens in a competitive nature. I don't think that there's any harm done. He'll move on and continue to compete, and we'll do the same thing."

Following the game, Tavernari, escorted by BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, went to New Mexico's locker room and apologized to Alford.

According to MWC sportsmanship rule 4.4.3, "an individual who uses obscene gestures or unduly provocative language or action toward a game official, conference personnel, another institution, a student-athlete or personnel of another institution, coach or spectator" shall be subject to a public reprimand on the first offense, and suspension on subsequent offenses.

The brief confrontation was caught on video by cameramen on the court and has been viewed by thousands on YouTube.com.

Alford, during Monday's MWC weekly teleconference and before learning of the reprimand, said he has apologized to BYU coach Dave Rose. He went on to say he didn't think a reprimand would be warranted. Normally, coaches and players are allowed a 10-minute cooling-off period following games before meeting with the media "because of emotions like this. But in the handshake you don't get that. Everyone is still fired up about things," Alford said.

In an ESPN interview Monday morning, Alford continued to call the incident a "heat-of-the-moment" issue caused by the competitiveness of both him and Tavernari following an important and emotional game.

"I'm wired as a competitor. Sometimes to a fault," he said.

But he also went on to say, "Nobody has more respect for (Tavernari) as a player than I do."

Tavernari, following Monday's practice, downplayed the incident as well.

"What happened, happened and is over," Tavernari said. "It was an emotional game and an emotional game for all of us ... it was just a misunderstanding ... what's over is over and we have to move on. The only time we live in the past is when we go to check out things in the museums."

Rose called the incident "something that probably shouldn't have happened ... but I think everything is good."

New Mexico officials said Monday night that neither the university nor Alford would comment on the reprimand.

e-mail: jimr@desnews.com