(UW Athletics release)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An early second half run by New Mexico doomed the Cowboys in 75-66 loss to the Lobos in Dream Style Arena/ The Pit on Wednesday evening in Albuquerque, N.M. The loss marked only the second time under head coach Allen Edwards the Pokes were defeated after leading at the half. UW fell to Boise State when leading at the break last season on Jan. 28, 2017.
“We talked about our edge and effort on the defensive end of the floor and New Mexico came out in the second half and played well off the ball screen and made some three point shots,” Edwards said. “Our one thing we said to our guys is we need to get better on the road by working on our mental toughness going into a building like this and playing our best brand of basketball.”
The Pokes fall to 11-6 overall and 2-2 in Mountain West play with the Lobos moving to 8-10 overall and 3-2 in league play.
Junior point guard Justin James led all scorers with a career-high 31 points going 11-of-18 from the field. He came into the game averaging 21.5 points on the road this season and has notched his career high in the last two road contests. Senior forward Hayden Dalton added 10 points and eight rebounds tying for the team lead with fellow senior Alan Herndon.
The Pokes shot 49 percent from the field out shooting the Lobos on the night. New Mexico shot 46 percent, but added 10 three pointers in the contest, as they came into the game leading the MW at 11 threes per game. UNM dominated the glass in the game with a 34-23 advantage on UW.
“The game plan was to attack the rim and score,” Edwards said. “I thought we missed some layups, but I thought New Mexico did a good job of finishing at the rim. This is a very competitive league and we need to be consistent with our approach. We got to go back at it and begin our preparation for Colorado State.”
The Lobos got out to a 7-2 lead on the Pokes in the opening minutes of the ball game. The Cowboys went on a 7-0 run to take a 9-7 lead with 15:16 left in the half. James led the Pokes early with the first seven points of the game for the Brown and Gold.
New Mexico used the three ball to take a 16-11 lead on the Pokes eight minutes into the first half. 12 of the Lobos 16 points came via the three pointer. James led the Pokes back to take a 20-18 lead elevating for a deep three pointer at the 8:56 mark of the frame. Dalton would add a triple that fueled a 12-2 run by UW to take a 23-18 advantage.
The Pokes went scoreless for well over two minutes, but held the Lobos scoreless for over three minutes to make it a 25-22 contest with three minutes remaining in the half. Wyoming struggled offensively to close the half, but the Pokes took a five point lead into the half on a tip in at the buzzer from Dalton.
Wyoming shot 45 percent from the field in the first half with the Lobos shooting 42 percent. The Pokes offense was fueled by capitalizing on turnovers, as the Pokes scored 14 points off of turnovers in the first stanza.
Antino Jackson opened the second half with a pair of three pointers for the Lobos, as New Mexico grabbed a 33-32 lead two minutes in to the frame. It was a part of an 11-0 run to open the half to take a 38-32 lead moments later.
New Mexico continued their hot shooting to take a six point lead at 45-39 with 14:12 left in the game. UNM made 5-of-6 shots in building their largest lead of the game to that point. James go his 20th point of the game to pull the Cowboys within three points at 48-45 with just over 11 minutes left in the game.
The Pokes could not break into the lead and the Lobos capitalized building a 10-point lead at 59-49 with 7:20 remaining, as UNM was shooting 50 percent from the field in the frame to that point. Sophomore forward Andrew Moemeka gave the Pokes a boost off the bench with just under three minutes left recording a block on the defensive end and added a three-point play to make it a 65-59 contest.
The six points would be the closest the Pokes would get, as the Lobos knocked down free throws late to earn the 75-66 win. The Lobos forced 11 Cowboy turnovers in the second half turning those mistakes into 15 points.
Antino Jackson led the Lobos with 20 points on the night. He went 4-of-7 from behind the three point line. Joe Furstinger and Makuach Maluach added 17 points on the night for New Mexico.
The Pokes return to the Arena-Auditorium on Saturday to host Colorado State for the first Border War match up of the season. The game is slated for a 2 p.m. start and will be televised on CBSSN.