Oral Roberts was expected to pose a threat to New Mexico at the Pit. They have a top-ten national scorer in Obi Emegano (who was good for 25 points) and a cast of good three-point shooters. But last night the three-point game belonged to UNM.
Elijah Brown and Cullen Neal led the way early for New Mexico with some crisp outside shooting. They scored 20 of New Mexico’s first 22 points and gave UNM an early 22-9 lead 7 minutes into the first half. How were these two getting their points? Both took turns pushing the tempo and driving towards the basket before kicking it out to the other for the three. Indeed, Oral Roberts is known for its three point shooting, but early on the Lobos were knocking them down at a 4/6 clip, finding a stroke that they had lost in the previous games.
But Oral Roberts wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. They responded with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 8 at the midway point of the first half. With Neal and Brown on the bench, New Mexico seemed unfazed and used an inside attack featuring Tim Williams (8 points in the first half) and Obij Aget (6 points for the game). Neal and Brown reentered the game and picked up where they left off. Neal knocked down a three from NBA range and gave the Lobos their biggest lead of the night 35-20 with 6 minutes left in the half. Quick buckets by Williams and Brown and suddenly the Lobos jumped out to a 40-22 lead on a night in which it didn’t look like they could miss.
The Lobos went into the locker rooms with a 52-27 lead. Brown and Neal led the way with a combined 33 points (Neal 19, Brown 14) at intermission, but this was very much a collective level with Williams, Aget and Sam Logwood (6 points) knocking down shots in addition to a beautiful floater and feisty defense by backup point guard Tim Jacobs (6 points ). The Lobos played with great pace in the first half, but the real key was that they were shooting lights out. They shot 59% in the first half and went 8/11 from beyond the arc (73%). They also out-rebounded ORU in the first half 29-17.
The chemistry between Brown and Neal is palpable. When those two knock down their shots and incorporate Williams, the Lobos are a potent and dangerous team capable of competing with most teams in the nation. Their key throughout the season will be developing consistency from the outside or knowing to get others involved in the game if their shots aren’t falling.
The Golden Eagles actually outscored the Lobos 48-39 in the second half, and even managed to cut the lead to 63-47 after a 12-0 run in 46 seconds. UNM turned the ball over three times in less than a minute. A larger 24-6 run reduced the Lobos' lead to 9 with 9:43 left in the second half. The cherry and silver settled down after that and got the ball into the post, making a concerted effort to get Tim Williams the ball. He responded with a huge second half and finished the game with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Neal continued his hot shooting and finished with 29 points on 10/20 shooting whereas Brown only added one second-half point for 15 in the game. As expected, New Mexico's second-half play did not match that of the first half, but time and a huge lead were on their side.
The Lobos' next game is a huge one at Purdue, who is currently eleventh in the nation. That game will be this Saturday at 10:15 am mountain time.