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UNM 82, No. 3 BYU 64 : Double Whammy

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PROVO, Utah — No top seed for you, BYU.

Maybe in the Mountain West Conference tournament — although even that remains to be seen.

As far as the NCAA Tournament?

The Cougars have about as much chance of getting a No. 1 as Lindsay Lohan of getting into a convent.

On Wednesday, the New Mexico Lobos (19-11, 7-8) continued their recent domination of the Cougars (27-3, 13-2) — and ruined some big-time BYU plans here for the second straight year.

Last season, UNM beat BYU 83-81 in Provo in the game that decided the MWC regular-season title. On Wednesday, the Lobos pounded the third-ranked Cougars 82-64, in the process exposing the latter’s newly found weakness — the inside game.

BYU’s interior was blown apart by Tuesday’s suspension of 6-foot-9 starting sophomore post Brandon Davies.

“We did what we wanted to do,” said UNM coach Steve Alford, “which was beat them inside. Get backboard and paint scores. Any time you play BYU, they’re so good in transition, the 3-point line and the free-throw line.”

Not on Wednesday.

The only place the Cougars could shoot was from the foul line, going 19-of-22 for 86.4 percent. But it was a different story when the Lobos were in their faces — which they were all night.

BYU was 20-of-59 from the floor (33.9 percent) and 5-of-26 from 3-point range (19.2 percent) — the latter a season low.

Saturday
Air Force at UNM, 4 p.m.
TV: The mtn.

Radio: KKOB-AM (770)

But its problems actually started on Tuesday, when Davies was suspended for the season for violating the school’s “honor code.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Davies broke the code by having premarital sex.

After whipping then sixth-ranked San Diego State on Saturday on the Aztecs’ home floor, the Cougars shot up to No. 3 in both national polls and were being labeled as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament in two weeks. No longer without Davies. Alford, however, didn’t think Davies’ absence made a difference Wednesday.

“That doesn’t matter; we’ve been without Darington Hobson all year,” Alford said of the former Lobo, who played one year at UNM before turning pro last season as a junior. “We’ve been without Emmanuel (Negedu) the last 13 games.”

Negedu transferred to UNM from Tennessee, where he was not cleared to continue after suffering cardiac arrest. He played 10 games this season.

Without Davies around — the Cougars’ third-leading scorer and leading rebounder — the Lobos blasted Brigham Young 45-29 on the boards.

But the Lobos were also stellar on defense while breaking out of their recent shooting slump by going 9-of-20 from 3-point range (45.0 percent).

The Lobos — who have beaten BYU four straight times — made their first four shots and streaked to leads of 13-2, 27-12 and 40-21 in the first half of a game they never trailed. Then they answered every run the Cougars even thought about the entire night.

National player of the year candidate Jimmer Fredette had a deceiving game-high 33 points. He was 5-of-19 from the floor at one point before driving repeatedly to the hole in the second half.

The 6-2 senior guard was 1-of-9 from 3-point range. He missed a key 3 after BYU narrowed a 19-point deficit to 48-37 early in the second half.

The Lobos responded with an 11-0 run led by Phillip McDonald, a 29 percent 3-point shooter this season who caught fire. He started the big run with a 3 and scored off an alley-oop layup from Kendall Williams less than a minute later. McDonald finished with a team-high 26 points.

Williams hit 3-for-5 3s on the way to 15 points and seven assets. Junior post Drew Gordon had 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

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