The New Mexico Lobos overcame a 16-point deficit first half deficit early Tuesday morning and rallied to claim an 86-81 victory over Davidson Wildcats before a crowd of 14,277 at The Pit in Albuquerque. The game was the second game of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops and tipped off just after midnight local time.
Junior Tony Snell scored a game-high 25 points on a career high 22 field goal attempts and pulled down five rebounds while fellow junior Kendall Williams added 17 points – going 13 of 14 from the free throw line - as UNM outscored Davidson 55-36 in the decisive second half. The Lobos finished the game 38 of 44 from the free throw line, pushing the Wildcats, who finished with 27 personal fouls, into foul trouble by consistently driving the lane.
"Obviously extremely proud of our basketball team," said UNM head coach Steve Alford after the game. "Davidson is an outstanding team. We knew they would be good from watching tape from last year. But they’re even better than advertised. To get down 16 to a team like this and come back in the last 14 minutes… I’m just extremely proud of this team,"
Davidson (1-1) was paced by De'Mon Brooks, who scored 22 points, and Tyler Kalinoski, Chris Czerapowicz and Clint Mann, each of who added 12 points. Czerapowicz finished with a 4 of 5 effort on 3-pointers while man went 4 of 7 from the field.
Davidson jumped out to a 10-0 lead as UNM missed their first five field goals and didn’t score their first points until the 16:15 mark. The Wildcats jumped out to the early lead using pinpoint accuracy on three pointers that seemed to stun the Lobos and quieted The Pit crowd.
"We were a little stagnant in the first half," said Alford. "Their three shooting kind of shell shocked the team a little bit and we got a little frustrated offensively."
Davidson would push the lead all the way out to 25-9 at the 11:40 mark before the Lobos began to respond.
UNM rallied and slowly began to trim the lead, cutting the Wildcats advantage to 37-31 with 1:34 left in the half. But Davidson closed the half with an 8-0 run to take a 45-31 lad into halftime.
New Mexico opened on a 5-0 run in the second half that was short circuited when the Wildcat’s Jake Cohen hit a 3-pointer at the 18:06 mark. But the Lobos continued to claw, cutting the lead to 54-45 before managed another four-point bump to increase the lead to 58-45 with 14:18 left in the game.
From there UNM went in a 16-3 run fueled by free throw shooting and an increased rebounding presence. The Lobos tied the game at 61-61 on a backdoor lay up by freshman Cleveland Thomas with 9:17 left in the game.
But Davidson remained game, and the lead changed hands four more times before UNM claimed the advantage at 70-68 on a pair of free throws by Williams
UNM pushed the lad to 81-75 but the Wildcats hit a pair of threes down the stretch to keep the game in question. UNM finally landed the knockout blow when Williams hit a pair of free throws ti make the score 85-81 UNM with seven seconds left. Brooks then airballed the ensuing 3-point attempt and the Lobos then ran the clock out.
"I think the key in the second half was the play of our freshmen," said Alford. "(Nick Banyard) and Thomas were tremendous. They gave us a huge lift in a difficult game for freshmen to play in. I thought they energized us."
Alford also had high praise for The Pit crowd, which he said was a big key to the comeback.
"The crowd was phenomenal – I just can’t say enough good things about our crowd," said Alford "Our kids were playing hard but we were jst getting ourselves beat. But the crowd never gave up and just continued to work for us. Then we got in a bit of a rhythm and the crowd went to a whole other level. It was a great atmosphere."