"Hey ref, hey ref," Cincinnati forward Erik Martin began yelling, chasing down one of the officials. "Hey ref, do you smell that?"
The smell probably came from a stink-bomb, but then again, it may have resulted from an incredibly offensive performance by New Mexico State, which fell behind by 32 points at halftime of yesterday's 92-55 defeat to Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA East Regional.
Yesterday's matchup was expected to be a crowd-pleasing affair, featuring two athletic and defensive-minded teams. Instead, New Mexico State (26-8) went out with barely a peep after suffering its worst first-half performance this season.
"Duh, duh," were the first sounds out of New Mexico State coach Neil McCarthy in the post-game news conference following his team's worst defeat this season. "I can't remember a team performing more badly than we did. Today we probably played like the 300th-ranked team in the nation."
Unlike Coppin State, which had a game plan in attacking the Cincinnati pressure before being worn down in Friday night's 93-66 loss, New Mexico State looked dazed from the outset. At the 10-minute mark of the first half the Aggies trailed 32-8, and looked nothing like the team that attacked the basket with nine dunks in its 93-79 first-round victory over Nebraska.
The key for Cincinnati (26-4) was attacking Sam Crawford, New Mexico State's 5-foot-8 point guard who had 20 points and an NCAA first-round record 16 assists Friday. His quickness and precision passing were the reasons why teams didn't press the Aggies this season. That was not the case yesterday.
"They were just coming from everywhere," said Crawford, who finished with seven points, seven assists and 10 turnovers. "Once in a while they'd send a guy from the wing, once in a while they'd send the guy from the middle, and once in a while they'd send another guard. They were getting to me a lot quicker than I thought."
Hounding Crawford with two- and sometimes three-man traps, the Bearcats converted Crawford's bad passes into one easy basket after a another, essentially running a layup line in the first half. The Aggies walked off at halftime in a 50-18 daze.
Six minutes into the second half the Cincinnati lead was 40 and the Aggies trailed by as many as 49. New Mexico State finished the game shooting 36.7 percent -- including a horrendous 26.3 percent first half when the hit just five of 19 shots. The 37-point difference was the fifth-largest margin of victory in an East Regional game.
"We simply didn't handle the pressure very well," McCarthy said. "We suffered some omission of intelligence."