Following a Championship victory at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, the San Diego State Aztecs (8-5, 0-1 Mountain West) started the new year with a tough 68-62 loss to the University of New Mexico Lobos (9-5, 2-0 Mountain West) at Viejas Arena in San Diego.
With junior forward Malik Pope out for the sixth game of the season and senior Matt Shrigley sitting out, the Aztecs needed others to step up. The Aztecs came out firing in the opening minutes of the game as they jumped out to an early 11-4 lead with 15:04. Meanwhile, the Lobos responded with a 9-3 run to trail 22-18 with 7:58 in the first half.
The Aztecs defense was solid in first twenty minutes and frustrated Lobos’ leading scorer Tim Williams with several double teams. The Lobos committed 11 turnovers and the Aztecs capitalized with 11 points off these turnovers. Trey Kell led San Diego State with 9 points and 3 assists as the Aztecs led 35-26 at halftime.
In the second half, the Aztecs brought the same intensity on the defensive end and forced the Lobos into difficult shots. However, the Lobos would not go away easy and kept the game within ten points for the majority of the game.
Down the stretch, Williams made four consecutive free throws to extend the Lobos’ lead to 66-62 with thirty seconds left. A steal by Lobos’ Kuiper led to an exclamation point dunk by Jalen Harris that sealed the victory. These free throws and dunk capped a Lobos’ 6-0 run over the final 45 seconds of the game.
Despite failing to put together successful runs throughout the game, the Lobos finished the final 6 minutes with a 21-6 run that left the Aztecs’ home crowd shocked. The Lobos were led by junior point guard Elijah Brown, who finished with 22 points, 2 steals, and four three-pointers. As well, Lobos’ senior forward Tim Williams finished with 12 points on 3-for-9 from the field and 9 rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Jeremy Hemsley scored 16 points and Trey Kell scored 12 points for the Aztecs.
Overall, the Lobos shot 41% from the field and an excellent 50% (6-12) from the three-point line. The Lobos outscored the Aztecs 43-26 in the second half.
Lobos: New Mexico will face Utah State on the road this Wednesday.
Aztecs: San Diego State will play at Nevada this Wednesday.