New Mexico vs. San Diego Final Score: 73-66

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Lobos hold off the Toreros

Kendall Williams and the New Mexico Lobos held off the persistent University of San Diego Toreros Saturday afternoon, 73-66. The Lobos advance to 5-1 and the Toreros fall to 7-2.

Williams led the Lobos with 28 points, six rebounds and four assists. Perhaps most impressive was Williams' free-throw shooting, sinking 16-16. Alex Kirk also had a big game with 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Cameron Bairstow turned it on late the second half to go for 16 points, three rebounds and two pivotal blocks.

That is pretty much it for the New Mexico scorers. Cleveland Thomas chipped in five points and Hugh Greenwood had three. Greenwood contributed in other areas though: eight rebounds, five assists and several deflected passes.

The Toreros were led by Johhny Dee (25 points) and Duda Sanadze (18 points) who both hit four three-pointers. Christopher Anderson played facilitator dishing out 12 dimes and scoring seven points. No single Torero had more than four rebounds; the team finished with 26 to UNM's 40.

This was a game of runs. The Toreros led by 12 points at one point in the first half, but the Lobos held steady to work their way back to a two-point lead at half-time (32-30). The Toreros came out strong after the half building up a seven-point lead at the 12:06 mark (41-48). Then Bairstow went on a streak of his own, scoring six of the next eight points to put the Lobos up 49-48. Bairstow also had a couple of finger-tip blocks in the last several minutes that gave the Lobos a definite advantage.

New Mexico did their best to build on that lead but USD just wouldn't give up. Dee made a three-pointer to tie it at 61 around the 2:00 mark. Williams scored the next eight points to go up 61-69. Sanadze hit a three with nearly 30 seconds left to make it a five-point game (64-69). Eventually though the Lobos were able to get by with a pair of free-throws from Thomas and Williams to end it at 73-66.

The Toreros were a feisty competitor, especially considering the raucous crowd at The Pit. There were times the Lobos looked poised to put the game away for good, but without fail the Toreros found a way to hit a vital shot. To be sure, the Toreros had the Lobos on their heels a few times as well. The Lobos displayed similar grit finding a way to work their way back into the game time after time.

This is a good win for the Lobos. This is probably the toughest team they have faced at home. I don't think it will be enough to edge New Mexico back into the top-25, but just it just might considering Marquette and Creighton's weekend losses.

Most importantly though, it gives the Lobos confidence and momentum as they embark on the most challenging portion of their non-conference schedule. Next up is 7-1 New Mexico State University on the road, followed by Cincinnati (at home), #2 Kansas in Kansas City and then NMSU again at The Pit.

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