The New Mexico Lobos ran to a 14-point halftime lead and then held off a furious rally to defeat the Ill.-Chicago Flames 66-59 Friday afternoon in the Paradise Jam tournament held in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
With the win, UNM remains in the winners' bracket and will play George Mason on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
The Lobos were led by junior Kendall Williams, who tallied a career-high 23 points for the game. Junior guard Demetrius Walker added 13 points. The Lobos got nine rebounds each by from post Alex Kirk and guard Hugh Greenwood. Greenwood also had four assists. New Mexico (2-0) aided the Flames’ efforts with 18 turnovers
For the game, UNM shot 40.4 percent from the field and out rebounded UIC 39-32.
"I thought UIC battled, but I thought our guys battled," said New Mexico head coach Steve Alford. "We won by making five field goals in the (second) half."
Trailing 37-23, UIC made the game unfocused for the Lobos in the second half, cutting the UNM lead to 54-52 with just over three minutes left in the game. But the Lobos were able to hold off the Flames for the win.
"We just got a little chaotic offensively," said Alford. "I thought we got stagnant. In the second half, they made some good adjustments and got into us a little more (defensively) and I didn't think our guys handled it well.
"But, the last three minutes, we did what we had to do to win. It's a very good win. We are in the winners' bracket and that's a whole lot better than being in the bottom (losers' bracket)."
UNM again used its aggressive attacks on the basket to create fouls and get to the free throw line - making 23-of-30 at the line with Williams going 11-of-13 and Kirk going 5-of-8.
"That's something we take a lot of pride in" said Alford of the Lobos’ free throw shooting. "We got to the line and we made them."
New Mexico used a renewed defensive effort and a great first half by Demetrius Walker. Up just 17-16, the Lobos outscored the Flames 20-7 the rest of the way as Walker scored 13 points to lead UNM in the first half.
For the game , UIC outshot the Lobos 58-47 and made more than UNM ( 21-19). But the flames made just 9 of 26 three pointers and shot 8 of 14 at the free throw line.
shot 11 more field goals (58-47) and made two more than the Lobos (21-19), but their long-range attack (9-of-26) doomed them to an 8-of-14 effort at the line. UIC was aided by 18 Lobo turnovers.
New Mexico next plats the George Mason Patriots on Sunday afternoon. GMU (2-1) defeated future UNM opponent Mercer 52-49 on Friday in the Jam's opening game.