The Lobos moved to 2-0 in Mountain West Conference play with a 68-62 come-from-behind victory over the San Diego State Aztecs on New Year’s Day.
Down 11 points at the break, UNM rallied in the second half to win their first game at Viejas Arena since 2012.
Elijah Brown led all scorers with 22 points on 5-13 shooting from the floor and 4-6 from behind the arc, while Tim Williams added 12 points and nine rebounds, including clutch free throws in the closing minutes to secure the victory.
“It’s just tough to win here,” said UNM head coach Craig Neal “Look at their percentages. They’ve won so many games in here in the last seven or eight years. It’s a tough place to play. But I think our guys experienced what they did last year and I think they were hungry to come in here and get a win. I’m happy for them.”
It was the first win on the road against the Aztecs in Neal’s tenure at UNM, and a big win for the Lobos as they look to continue their perfect start in MWC play.
“This was a special one,” Brown said after the game. “We came close so many times. For us to be kind of going up and down and having a year like we’re having, this was a huge win and it took a lot of maturity. I couldn’t be happier with this win.”
Sophomore guard Jeremy Hemsley led the Aztecs in scoring with 16 points on 6 of 16 shooting from the floor. It was an off night for the 6-3, 190 pound native of Rancho Cucamonga, who managed to hit only one of seven shots from downtown, well below his season average of 35%.
It was a disappointing loss for a San Diego State team that is the three-time defending MWC regular season champion. The Aztecs are now 0-1 in conference play, and face an uphill battle to catch UNM and Boise State who are both 2-0.
“Disappointing is probably an understatement,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. “Win for about 35 minutes, 34 minutes, you play significantly better, and then are unable to hang on. It’s disappointing.”