If you just looked at the two teams leaving Bob King Court on Saturday night, you may not have had any idea who won.
Except for those smiles.
The No. 19 New Mexico Lobos looked every bit the part of the hurt, beaten up, exhausted team as they limped up the ramp to the locker room after a 60-50 win over Boise State to improve to 22-4 overall and 9-2 in the Mountain West Conference, good enough to remain alone in first place in the league standings.
“Huge win for us,” UNM head coach Steve Alford said. “I’m just really proud of our guys. It was a gutty performance. We’re tired. We’re beat up. I knew this was going to be a very difficult game for us.”
After beating Boise State (16-8, 4-6 MWC) in front of a sellout crowd of 15,411 in the Pit, the Lobos can now rest before playing second-place Colorado State in Fort Collins on Saturday.
They welcome the break.
Starting center Alex Kirk played Saturday with a heavily bandaged left hand he injured Wednesday at Fresno State. It clearly affected him as he ripped down many of his game-high 12 rebounds with just his right hand.
Starting point guard Hugh Greenwood’s left ankle, sprained in a Feb. 8 practice, is “still purple” according to teammate Jamal Fenton and was clearly slowing his play Saturday in one of his worst statistical games of the season with just four points, three turnovers and five fouls.
Junior guard Demetrius Walker’s bruised left knee kept him out of Saturday’s game, the first game lost this season to injury for UNM.
Still, after a Tony Snell 3-pointer with 13:25 left in the first half, the Lobos never trailed the league’s best offensive team.
Junior forward Cameron Bairstow led the charge with 16 points and seven rebounds and, more importantly, held Boise State sharpshooter Jeff Elorriaga, easily the league’s most accurate 3-point shooter this season, to five points on 2-of-10 shooting including just 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
Bairstow was one of four Lobos in double-figure scoring. But it was, as it often is for UNM, all about the defense as the Lobos held the league’s highest-scoring team to a season-low 50 points (24.9 points below its season average) and 34.7 percent shooting to go along with 17 turnovers.
“They’re just a rock-solid team is what I would say about them,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “They execute defensively. You have to out-execute them because they’re not going to screw up.”
The Lobos had to hold off several Boise State runs in the second half. Senior reserve guard Jamal Fenton scored nine-straight points on three 3-pointers for UNM to take a 47-41 lead with 7:24 remaining. But Boise answered with a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 47-46 with 5:23 left.
UNM’s defense, which held Fresno State to only one basket in the final 10 minutes, 8 seconds of Wednesday’s road win, held Boise State to just one basket in the final 5:23 on Saturday and closed on a 13-4 scoring run.
Alford said the second-half play of Fenton on offense and Chad Adams on defense was key.
That was “fitting,” Alford said, as the two seniors tied A.J. Hardeman and Phillip McDonald (2009-12) as the winningest Lobos in program history on Saturday with 102 career victories.
UNM won despite shooting just 34.7 percent from the field, the eighth time this season it won while shooting below 40 percent. After Bairstow’s 16 points, Snell scored 12, Fenton 11 and Kendall Williams 10.
Boise State was led by a game-high 19 points from Derrick Marks. Ryan Watkins, Boise State’s big man who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting between the two teams Jan. 16, was held to zero points and just two rebounds.
“It was a gut-check performance,” Alford said. “We grew up mentally.”
RECRUIT IMPRESSED: Josh Perkins, a 6-foot-3 junior guard from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., was at Saturday’s game with his father on an official recruiting visit.
Perkins is rated a top-50 national recruit for the class of 2014 by four major recruiting services and says UNM is one of nine finalists for his college services along with Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Colorado, Stanford, Gonzaga, Denver University and Minnesota.
Chants of “We want Josh” were started by the student section at least four times Saturday during timeouts in the Pit.
No. 19 New Mexico 60, Boise State 50
02-16-13 at The Pit/Bob King Court
Boise State 50
New Mexico 60
|Score by Periods||1st||2nd||Total|
|Boise State||23||27||50||Record: (16-8, 4-6 MW)|
|New Mexico||29||31||60||Record: (22-4, 9-2 MW)|
|Points in the paint-BS 20,NM 18. Points off turnovers-BS 14,NM 17.|
|2nd chance points-BS 4,NM 5. Fast break points-BS 11,NM 2.|
|Bench points-BS 8,NM 12. Score tied-1 time. Lead changed-3 times.|
|Last FG-BS 2nd-00:46, NM 2nd-02:07.|
|Largest lead-BS by 4 1st-15:51, NM by 10 2nd-00:26.|
|Officials: Dan Chrisman, Winston Stith, Rick O’Neill
Technical fouls: Boise State-None. New Mexico-None.