New Mexico's youth and inexperience is showing at the wrong time of the season. This was a much-needed win for the Lobos, but they were unable to pull it off. Fresno State came into Albuquerque and gave New Mexico their third home loss of the season as well as their third consecutive loss, a scary thought given that UNM faces San Diego State on Tuesday.
Marvelle Harris and Julien Lewis led the way for the Bulldogs with 32 and 21 points, respectively. And in fact, this game was a real shootout with pretty poor defense overall and especially on the part of New Mexico. Both teams shot above 50% from the field and above 40% from three. In the end though, it was Fresno State who was able to claim the victory as they went 7/10 from the field over the last seven minutes. New Mexico, as has been the case through much of the season, was unable to get necessary defensive stops.
The first half started with a 7-0 run by the Bulldogs that was quickly answered by a 22-2 run from the Lobos. That put UNM up 22-9 with about 11 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the struggling Lobos, there was still 29 minutes left to play. Fresno State inched back with balanced scoring from the aforementioned Harris and Lewis and Karachi Edo, who chipped in 10 points before halftime. Fresno State went into the locker rooms trailing 43-41, but on the upswing as the holes in New Mexico's defense began to show.
The second half remained equally close for the first ten minutes. Both teams traded baskets and neither could jump out to a decent lead. Then the Bulldogs, down 62-61, went on an 8-0 run. They would not relinquish the lead as they received solid second-half contributions from Jahmel Taylor (6 points) and Cullen Russo (8 points). Of course, Harris poured in 21 of his own and was able to get nearly any shot he wanted against New Mexico's porous defense.
Elijah Brown led the Lobos with an efficient and impressive 41 points (13-23 from the field, 10-13 FT) to go with 11 boards. Tim Williams chimed in with his usual 18. Yet these two guys, who have been consistent all year, received little help from their teammates. The other starters combined for 17 uninspired points. In fact, this game felt eerily reminiscent of the early half of the season when the Lobos made no attempt at a balanced offense.
Looking at the box score, one can't help but see how close this game was. Sure the Lobos out-rebounded the Bulldogs 34-25, but Fresno hit four more three-pointers and were plus-8 in bench points and only negative-4 in points in the paint, which has been one of UNM's most dominant strengths all season.
Credit to both teams for pulling out the offensive firepower for an ESPN game; hopefully this will warrant more coverage in the future. And congratulations to Fresno State for being the better team in this game. They will go on to face Colorado State on Wednesday at 9 while New Mexico takes on the Mountain West's best team, San Diego State on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm.