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New Mexico, UNLV tied; playing waiting game

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MILTON, Ga. – Clutching the yellow NCAA playoff schedule in his right hand, Glen Millican left the scoring area behind the 18th green and glanced at the treetops, which were gently swaying in the breeze.

“We could use a little bit more of that,” the New Mexico coach said, smiling.

After a disastrous start to this year’s NCAA Championship, the Lobos now find themselves in a five-hour waiting game. After three rounds they are at 2-over 842, tied with UNLV, and in good position to either secure one of the coveted eight spots for match play or perhaps play off for the No. 8 seed. Hence, the yellow sheet of paper.

New Mexico, which entered this week as the No. 5-ranked team in the country, shot 12-over 292 in the opening round, when no player broke 74 and the Lobos were T-27 in the 30-team field.

“We never felt like it was over,” Millican said. “Thirty-six holes is a lot of time to make birdies.”

The Lobos rebounded with a 6-under second round, moving into a tie for 15th with one round to go. And on Thursday, they were boosted by a 4-under 66 from Gavin Green, setting up a five-hour wait to see if they would crack the top eight.

“We’re lucky we got that morning tee time,” said Green, who birdied three of his last six holes. “We knew there was a good chance to get after it.”

For the past two days, Millican almost never checked his phone or the live-scoring site. He didn’t need the constant updates, the reminders of how his team stood. Just let them play, he figured.

Finally, he cracked on the 16th hole Thursday, with his team suddenly in contention.

“Sometimes it can drive you nuts when you look at what every player is doing on every hole,” Millican said. “If you look it too early it makes for a miserable day.”

As the Lobos were finishing out on 18 green, a roar could be heard about 500 yards away, through the trees.

Turns out that was UNLV’s Kurt Kitayama holing out for eagle on his last hole, the par-4 ninth, to push the Rebels to 2 over for the tournament.

They had one final shot to move ahead of New Mexico on the last hole. Kevin Penner, at 6 under overall, had a 12-footer for birdie, but he missed, meaning there would be not one but two teams waiting to see if their 2-over total would hold up.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more from our guys,” Millican said. “We knew exactly what we had to do. We had to play great and get some help.”