The nationally-ranked New Mexico Lobos finished with three players in double figured and rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to the host Fresno St. Bulldogs for a gritty 54-48 come-from-behind win at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. Wednesday night.
The win keeps the Lobos, ranked 19th in this week’s AP poll and 18th in the Coaches poll, atop the Mountain West Conference standings with a half-game lead over the Colorado St. Rams. UNM stands at 21-4, 9-2 in MWC play. Fresno falls to 8-15 and 2-8 in league play.
Down 48-45 with 3:40 to play the Lobos finished the game on a 9-0 run. Forward Cameron Bairstow slammed home a dunk that pushed UNM into a 49-48 lead, capping a sequence where the Lobos grabbed five offensive boards to produce four points.
The Lobos defensive effort reached a zenith point in the fine four minutes it had been building to since the beginning of the second half as New Mexico held the Bulldogs scoreless down the stretch and to just one field goal over the game’s final 10:20.
It was quite a turnaround as Fresno St. countered a 16-9 Lobo start with a 14-0 run of their own on their way to 31-20 halftime lead.
UNM opened te second frame on a 7-0 run then steadily cut into the Bulldogs lead until it was able to post a defensive stalemate in the final 10 minutes
FSU was paced by guard Kevin Olekaibe, who scored 11 points, and Kevin Foster who posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Cameron Bairstow pulled in 10 rebounds and scored 6 points for UNM, which outrebounded the ‘Dogs 32-31.
UNM shot just 26.9 percent (7-of-26) in the first half but finished with 21 of 56 shooting for 37.5 percent.
Fresno shot 39.3 percent (11 of 28) in the first half then shot just 7 of 27 in the second half to finish 18 of 55 (32.8 percent) for the game.