New Mexico's first game of the season was an ugly won full of fouls, but a victory nonetheless. Behind a big second half, UNM took down the Idaho State Bengals, 81-70.
The Lobos started off slowly, falling behind 14-24 in the first half. They trailed by six at halftime. Part of the reason for the slow start might be attributed to establishing team chemistry with Elijah Brown. Brown missed New Mexico's two preseason games with a hamstring injury and that threw the team off their game to start. Brown will be UNM's best player by season end, but tonight he started the game 2-7 and finished 5-13 for 14 points. He also chipped in 4 rebounds and 4 assists, but those were offset by 6 turnovers. The rust will wear off sooner rather than later.
While Brown struggled to find his rhythm, Sam Logwood and Tim Williams picked up the slack. Last season Logwood was a notable perimeter defender for the Lobos. It is the team's hope, especially since Cullen Neal transferred to Ole Miss, that Logwood would take a step in his offensive game. Against the Bengals, Logwood put up an efficient 20 points on 70% shooting to lead the team. Obviously it is too early in the year to say, but if he could consistently put in 15 points a night, New Mexico could be a strong team in the conference.
Tim Williams seems to have picked up where he left off last year, scoring in the post and hammering the boards. Last night he did his damage to the tune of 18 points and 11 rebounds.
This was probably the chippiest season opener between non-rivals that I've ever witnessed. The teams combined for four technicals and a flagrant foul. New Mexico had 20 personal fouls to Idaho State's 29. But in the end, the Lobos won on the glass and used some second-half shooting (62%) to outscore ISU 49-32. Ethan Telfair led Idaho State with a triple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists), but didn't have much help.
One thing to keep an eye on going forward: New Mexico's three-point shooting. The team shot 19% from downtown for the game. With Neal gone, the Lobos will need to get more consistent shooting out of Brown and starting point guard Jordan Hunter (who did a good job running the team). I also look for Anthony Mathis to add some range off of the bench.