Elijah Brown led all scorers with 19 points, including a perfect 14 for 14 from the free throw line to help the Lobos defeat the Bulldogs 78-73 at Wise Pies Arena, AKA the Pit on Wednesday night.
Free throw shooting proved to be key in the game, as UNM secured the victory over Fresno State by hitting 15 of 16 attempts from the charity strip in the final five and a half minutes of play.
New Mexico appeared to have the game in hand early with a 16-6 run in the first half to take a 29-15 lead, capped off by a crowd pleasing dunk by Brown off of an assist by forward Tim Williams.
But the Bulldogs would mount a 13-1 run of their own to close the game to 36-34 at the break, highlighted by a layup by Jahmel Taylor with three seconds left on the clock.
“I thought it was a really good indication of the fight that we have as a group, the effort they played with,” UNM coach Craig Neal said after the game. “They had many times where they came back in the game and our guys stayed the course and did what we asked them to do, and were able to push it out and get a really good win.”
The second half went back and forth between the two teams, with the Bulldogs pulling within one basket with 13 seconds left on an offensive rebound and put back basket by Cullen Russo.
With the game in the balance, Brown would hit four clutch free throws in the final ten seconds to close out the game for New Mexico.
“I think the best thing about our team is the way we’re shooting foul shots. It’s the only shot that’s not guarded and I want our guys to make them as much as they can,” said Neal.
It was an impressive win for the Lobos and an excellent way to bounce back after last week’s 31 point beatdown from No. 18 Arizona.
“I thought this was a really good game for all of our guys,” said Neal when asked about the response by his team after falling to Arizona.
“It was a really good indication about the fight we have as a group and the effort they play with. Many guys were able to come back in and get us our first win in the conference.”
The Lobos continue conference play on the road New Year’s Day against San Diego State. The reigning MWC regular season champion Aztecs are 8-4 on the season, led by leading scorers Jeremy Hemsley and Trey Kell.