The University of New Mexico continues its dominance at home with another victory, this one coming on a season sweep of their Rio Grande Rivals, the New Mexico State University Aggies.
The Lobos shot the ball particularly well, going nearly 48% from the field and 35% from three. Elijah Brown and Tim Williams led the way as they efficiently put up 20 points and 18 points on 7/14 and 9/15 shooting, respectively. The third amigo, Cullen Neal, chipped in 13 points and 9 assists while the Lobos also received a double-digit contribution from Sam Logwood (10 points and some mean defense). Neal's nine assists showed that he was aware that he was having a tough shooting night (4/13), but was still able to contribute in other ways. Sure enough, his unselfish play really energizes the whole club. Tonight the Lobos on the whole were unselfish, assisting on 20 baskets.
New Mexico State kept this game close in the first half, as the Aggies went to intermission only trailing by six points (38-32). The Lobos meant business in the second half though, coming out and shooting a sweltering 56%. Additionally, a first half injury to Ian Baker, one of NMSU's leading scorers and their top playmaker, jeopardized their chance of pulling off the upset.
Baker's injury came off of a hard pick as he took a shot to the head and left the game under concussion protocols. Fortunately he was able to walk off the court on his own volition and here is wishing him a speedy recovery.
But it wasn't just Baker's injury that plagued New Mexico State, Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State's best player, was hindered by foul trouble in the second half and had to sit out eight of the twenty minutes. While that does not seem like much, in the November 15th game against UNM, Siakam only sat out one minute due to the fact that the Aggies' offense stalls when he is off the floor.
Siakam still hung 21 points on the silver-and-cherry red to lead New Mexico State. New Mexico's defense though successfully stifled all other Aggies as Siakam was the only double-digit scorer.
In the end, this came down to who was taking advantage of the three point line and their free throws. In both cases, the Lobos dominated the Aggies. Whereas the Aggies went 0/7 on three, UNM connected on 7/20. That is a 21 point difference from beyond the arc and the Lobos are gaining a reputation for shutting down their opponents from three. Thus far this season, New Mexico is holding its opponents to under 27% from long range.
Moreover, NMSU shot a pedestrian 44% from the free throw line, connecting on 13/29 to the Lobos' 12/17. When you factor in that the Lobos also out-rebounded the Aggies by 12 (40-28), there was really no way for the Lobos to lose this game.
New Mexico takes on its next foe, Rice University, this Saturday at the Pit at 6:00 PM MT. The Lobos will strive to continue enjoying this nice little home stretch and take advantage of the Pit's legendary status for tough places to play.