The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team played with just six scholarship players when they lost to Utah State 89-80 in Logan, Utah on January 31st.
With a full complement of 10 scholarship players at his disposal on Wednesday night at the Pit, head coach Paul Weir and the Lobos used their depth to even the season series against the Aggies with a 78-63 win before 9,737 Lobo fans at DreamStyle Arena.
Anthony Mathis scored a team-high 25 points on eight of 12 shooting, and Joe Furstinger grabbed seven rebounds as the Lobos pulled away on a 32-13 run in the final 11 minutes of the game to defeat the Aggies.
Although the Aggies owned a significant advantage in field goal percentage, including an impressive 50% shooting from behind the arc, UNM’s tenacious defense proved to be the difference down the stretch, as the Lobos forced 23 turnovers and a plus-14 turnover differential. New Mexico scored 23 of their 78 points off of turnovers and 24 points came in transition buckets off of fast break opportunities.
“We try to run teams down and sometimes. Some nights, they don’t get tired,” said UNM forward Sam Logwood after the game. “Then sometimes, there are teams, like tonight, where you can just see them slowly just wearing down.”
The Lobos indeed wore down the Aggies, a team that entered the game on a hot streak with wins in four of their previous five games.
Sophomore guard Sam Merrill led Utah State with a career-high 33 points on seven of eight shooting from three-point land. Fellow backcourt star Koby McEwen, who scored a career-high 31 points when the two teams played back in January, managed just 10 points and committed seven turnovers as foul trouble limited the Toronto, Ontario native to 24 minutes of action.
With the win, the Lobos move to 13-14 overall and 8-6 in Mountain West Conference play. New Mexico trails 11-2 Nevada by 3.5 games with four games left on the schedule. The Lobos travel north to take on the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie next Tuesday before returning to the Pit to host UNLV on Saturday, February 25th.