In 1998, Cleveland's first year, he took a 7-20 team to Albuquerque. They needed two wins to qualify for the conference tournament and the first game was against a ranked Lobo team. The Cougars went to "The Pit" and blew out New Mexico by 19-points. They followed that with another upset as freshman Mikeli Wesley hit two free throws at the end of the third overtime to seal a win over UTEP.
"When I look back, when I'm done coaching," Cleveland said. "Those last two games [that year] will be one of the best experiences I've had in coaching. The New Mexico game and then winning in triple overtime – that was special."
In his time at BYU, Cleveland has posted an 11-7 record vs. New Mexico, with three wins in The Pit. Last year, the Lobos won on a half court pass and lay-up just before the final buzzer.
Earlier this season, BYU beat New Mexico 68-53, but all-conference forward Danny Granger did not suit up, and center David Chiotti played only 11 minutes. Both look to be at full strength for the Cougars visit.
In that game, BYU center Derek Dawes had his best game as a Cougar. He scored a career high 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It was his first double-double. But he knows he doesn't get a head start because of that performance.
"I'm not going into that game thinking I played good against them once so automatically I'll do so again," Dawes said. "They're a real good team. So we need to be ready as well. And we will be. It'll be a great game."
In the game last month Dawes made both free throw attempts and BYU hit 10 of their 14. Good free throw shooting is something that has abandoned the Cougars the last three games. Dawes is 4-10 in those games and BYU is 32-54 (59%).
Coach Cleveland said that free throws are a concern, but he doesn't spend too much time on it. "You don't go shoot 500 shots," Cleveland said. "That's not what you do. I've been doing this long enough that if you have them shoot 500 free throws then it just gets in their head."
One thing that is a concern for BYU is the loss of Keena Young. The forward broke his shooting hand during practice on Wednesday. Keena is the team's leading rebounder and fourth highest scorer during conference play. With Garner Meads' status still uncertain, the Cougars could be very understaffed, especially in the low post.
"We are going to miss Keena – his intensity on both ends," Dawes said. "When it rains it pours, the season by far hasn't gone the way we want it to. We're used to adversity and road blocks in our ways. But, we're going to miss Keena a lot. We'll handle it and do our best. We'll have to just pick it up. It won't just be one person. It's going to be a team effort."
- When asked about the rumors that he was a candidate for BYU's Athletic Director, Cleveland said: "I am not an applicant. I'm not going to be the athletic director. I know that President Samuelson and Fred Skousen will find the right man to lead this athletic department."
- BYU is only one game out of the fifth seed in the MWC tournament.
- Some reasons for BYU's struggles include being last in the MWC in field goal percentage, sixth in three-point percentage and fifth in scoring margin and free throw percentage.
- With Keena injured, Mike Hall leaving early for class and Chris Miles taking a breather Coach Andy Toolson was on the floor so the Cougars to could play 5-on-5. That's how shorthanded the team is after injuries.