The nationally ranked New Mexico Lobos finished the first half with a 25-4 run and used that momentum to build an insurmountable lead in the second half to defeat the visiting USC Trojans 75-67 before 15,241 at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Wednesday night.
The Lobos, ranked 18th in the Associated Press poll and 20th in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll with three players in double figures, led by sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood who scored season-high and game-high 17 points. Junior Kendall Williams added 13 points and nine assists.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Kirk posted his third consecutive double-double scoring 13 points and pulling down 13 rebounds for New Mexico, which moved to 9-0 on the season.
"I’m just proud of the team," said head coach Steve Alford. "We’ve had great effort. I thought our pace and intensity tonight was even up a level. And maybe it was because we started making some shots. From five minutes to go in the first half to five minutes to go in the game, that was a really high level of basketball for us and that was good to see – a lot of positive in this one."
Southern Cal (3-5) opened on a 5-0 run and continued to shoot well. UNM managed to tied the game 15-15 14:41 into the first half before going on a 13-3 run to take a 28-18 lead with 8:06 left in the half.
New Mexico responded with a 13-2 run of its own as USC went cold from the field to take its first lead at 31-30 with four minutes left in the first half. The Lobo run continued as UNM outscored the Trojans 12-4 the rest of the way to take a 43-34 lead into the half.
"It was a big run," said Alford of the Lobos’ first half scoring burst. "I think we had another one there in the second half that was big (too). But when you’re down 10 and to go into the half up nine, so you have a 19 point turn around in one half… then you build it to 17. You got a 17-point lead at home and there’s a lot of things that have to go wrong to lose it."
Both teams shot over 50 percent in the first half – UNM shot 16 of 29 (55.2%) compared to USC’s 14 of 24 (58.3%) but the Lobos hit five more three pointers (7 of 13 compared to the Trojans’ 2 of 6,) which ended up being one of the keys to the first half.
New Mexico shot just 4 of 10 from the free throw line in the first half and finished 11 of 24 for the game – the Lobos’ poorest showing from the charity stripe all season.
The two teams played evenly to open the half before UNM 9-2 run to take a 63-47 lead.
The Trojans managed a 10-0 run to cut the Lobos’ lead to 70-65 with 1:53 left in the game.
But Williams ended the UNM drought with a trey then Greewood hit a jumper with 1:07 left to take the UNM lead to 75-65. USC’s Jio Fontan managed a final lay up with nine seconds left but that ended the scoring.
Southern California finished with five players in double figures led by Eric Wise, who scored 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Dewayne Dedmon and Byron Wesley added 12 each while Fontan and J.T. Terrell each added 11 points. Dedmon led USC with nine rebounds but New Mexico outrebounded the Trojans 31-23 despite USC’s height advantage.
The Lobos got scoring from all 10 players who had minutes in the game. Chad Adams added eight points on 2 of 4 three-point shooting and Cameron Bairstow added six points, playing just 11 minutes due to foul trouble.
For the game UNM and Southern Cal shot about even overall – 28 of 54 (51.9%) for the Lobos to 27 of 51 (52.9%) for USC. But the Lobos outshot the Trojans 11- of 24 (45.85) to 4 of 13 (30.8%).
Southern Cal did outscore New Mexico 32-20 in the paint and 17-4 on fast break points and led UNM in free throws, shooting nine of 12 (75%) to the Lobos’ 8 of 14 (57.1%)
Alford was complimentary of his team after the game.
"Pancake (Cleveland Thomas) came off the bench and gave us a huge lift in the first half," said Alford. "It doesn’t show in the stats but he gave us a big lift. Cam go in foul trouble early, so we had to play Alex a lot tonight. We’ll get him some rest. Kendall was huge tonight, he really started hitting some shots and making things happen."