New Mexico’s Tony Snell nailed a jumper with 20 seconds to play giving the Lobos a four-point lead – their largest since the first half – and Kendall Williams added a dunk in the final seconds for the final margin as Fresno State failed to build on their impressive first half performance.
“We knew coming in, playing a well-coached New Mexico team, the type of defense we were going to play. We were fortunate to make some shots in the first half,” said FS head coach Rodney Terry.
The ‘Dogs shot 37.9% from the field in the first half, including an impressive 46.2% (6-of-13) from beyond the arc.
“Second half was no different,” said Terry.
However, FS couldn’t hit anything.
Kevin Olekaibe nailed a three-point shot with at the 3:42 mark ending an extensive scoring drought and breaking a 45-45 tie. Both squads struggled to find their shot during a 6:17-minute span as New Mexico made just one field goal and two foul shots as well.
The ‘Dogs shot just a 26.9% clip in the second stanza, including 1-of-12 in the final 10:08 of game. The Lobos grabbing offensive boards after the break played a huge part in New Mexico taking control of the game. Fresno State limited UNM to just five offensive rebounds in the first half compared to 14 in the second.
“Second chance points is what they feed off,” added Terry. “In this league, you got to play 40 minutes...we got to make shots.”
Trailing 49-48 with a minute to play, FS was called for an apparent five-second call on an inbounds pass, but it was reversed after another referee signaled a Bulldog timeout. Nonetheless, the ‘Dogs were called for a critical over-and-back violation seconds later virtually ending their final hope at an upset. In fact, FS failed on three consecutive inbounds passes in that final minute of the game.
“They do a great job defending the inbounds play, they really hurt us at their place,” said Terry. “We spread their guys out this time, but we had a difficult time getting in for whatever reason.”
New Mexico scored the first seven points of the second half breaking Fresno State’s momentum of the 24-2 run that ended the first half. The Lobos used a 21-9 run to take a 41-40 lead with 10:59 to play. Allen Huddleston’s basket followed by an Aaron Anderson three-pointer gave the ‘Dogs a four-point lead one minute later. It was the last points the ‘Dogs scored before Olekaibe’s three-point shot.
Olekaibe led the Bulldogs with 11 points. Kevin Foster recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Foster hit a three to give Fresno State an early 7-4 lead before New Mexico went on a 12-2 run to take a 16-9 lead with 7:53 to play in the first half. Marvelle Harris scored five straight points forcing New Mexico head coach Steve Alford to call a timeout to stop Bulldogs’ momentum.
It didn’t work.
Tyler Johnson nailed a shot beyond the arc to give the ‘Dogs the lead back, 17-16. He added a foul shot following a technical foul on Alford, and a Foster put back pushed the lead to four with 4:59 to play in first half.
Olekaibe missed an open three-pointer but continued the scoring run nailing a trey just seconds after the first miss. Foster and Olekaibe each made another three and Allen Huddleston added two free throws to cap the big first half run with 47.7 seconds remaining before the break. New Mexico’s Kendall Williams completed the first half scoring with a pair of shots from the charity stripe making it 31-20.
Fresno State falls to 8-15 and 2-8 in MWC play. The Bulldogs travel to Wyoming on Saturday. The loser likely is guaranteed a spot in the MWC Tournament play-in game.
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