Elijah Brown picked up his fourth 30-point performance of the season as the New Mexico Lobos finished off Boise State 88-83 at the Taco Bell Arena. Tim Williams had 21 points and Cullen Neal added 14 as New Mexico moved into sole position of second place in the conference with a 7-2 league record. The Lobos held off the Broncos with a free throw clinic, knocking down their final eight free throws and finishing 24-28 (85.7%) at the line.
Four Broncos finished in double figures in the losing effort. Nick Duncan led the way with 19 points while Lonnie Jackson and Mikey Thompson scored 17 apiece. Jackson single-handedly kept BSU in the game towards the end, draining five shots from deep, all in the second half.
The first half was played at a rapid pace, but both teams were able to limit turnovers and convert shots throughout. The Lobos led for most of the first period until Nick Duncan hit three free throws with 17 seconds remaining, but Elijah Brown silenced the home crowd by banking in a triple as the buzzer sounded to regain the lead.
Scoring runs and turnovers dictated the second half. After a dismal performance in the second half Wednesday against UNLV, the Broncos weren't able to stop the bleeding. Boise State only committed two turnovers in the first period, but had seven in the second half and went nearly eight minutes without scoring a basket, letting the New Mexico lead increase to 59-52.
In the next three minutes, the Broncos drained three shots from deep and Duncan added a pair of free throws and Boise State had a two-point advantage. But BSU would go cold yet again, enduring a three-minute scoring drought, trailing New Mexico by nine with 1:52 remaining.
From that point on, Boise State and New Mexico traded quick scores and free throws, as the Lobos hushed the Taco Bell Arena again and again Saturday afternoon.
The next week could determine New Mexico's NCAA Tournament fate. The Lobos will host UNLV on Tuesday and then head to Viejas Arena to battle the first-place San Diego State Aztecs. Although it's a brutal stretch for New Mexico (playing Boise State, UNLV and San Diego State in three consecutive games), the Lobos are playing their best basketball of the season and could make a serious charge after the Aztecs.
After another tough loss, the Broncos will have to head back to the drawing board. Throughout the season Boise State has struggled maintaining big leads and preventing major collapses. Dropping consecutive games in an important stretch of the season is a major wake-up call if the Broncos want to extend the season into March. It is the first time since late November that Boise State has lost consecutive games, when the Broncos finished 1-2 at the Wooden Legacy with losses to Michigan State and Arizona.
Boise State will take on Utah State at home on Tuesday and will go back on the road to face Air Force on Saturday.