LARAMIE, Wyo. — Last March, the UNM Lobos lost their last trip to the University of Wyoming’s “Highest Court in the Land” despite Carlton Bragg’s 22 points and 20 rebounds.
In Saturday’s return visit to the Front Range, Bragg had some help to dominate in the yellow paint around the Arena Auditorium rims.
Bragg and Corey Manigault combined for 33 points, 22 rebounds and three blocked shots as the Lobos beat Wyoming 79-65 in front of an announced afternoon crowd of 3,659.
The win moves the Lobos to 9-2 overall and 2-0 in Mountain West Conference play heading into finals week, and seven days off before their rivalry rematch Dec. 14 at home against New Mexico State.
“I thought Corey got into a flow because Carlton got in foul trouble (and played just eight minutes in the first half),” said UNM head coach Paul Weir. “That’s two games in a row now we’ve had to sit Carlton with two fouls early in the game, and we’ve got to find a way to kind of clean that up.
“But he bounced back with terrific energy — played really hard. He’s a force and obviously him and Corey together are tremendous when they’re on.”
Manigault, who a year ago had just four points and five rebounds in the Lobos’ Laramie loss, spread his stats nearly equally Saturday — nine points, four rebounds in the first half and nine points and three rebounds in the second half.
The 6-foot-10 senior Bragg still ended up with 15 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and a steal. Most of that production came in a second half of numerous monster dunks and high emotion.
Bragg did get called for a technical after one second-half dunk, his second in as many MWC games. That could become a concern for the Lobos as the league office has already reached out to UNM to reprimand Bragg for the double-technical foul he was involved in on Wednesday against Boise State.
But the emotion, Weir has said and Boise State’s Leon Rice echoed when asked about Williams’ technical in the Pit on Wednesday, is something both coaches hope to keep seeing.
In fact, on Saturday, Weir said he was happy to see his team play with so much energy in a game he was worried they might not.
“Afternoon game. Three games in seven days. We had to find a way to defend,” Weir said. “We didn’t know if we’d have the legs for our shots to go down or all the things we want to do offensively, but defensively I felt we were terrific and got ourselves a chance to obviously win the game.”
Wyoming (3-7, 0-2 MWC) never led by more than one point and held a lead for a total of 40 seconds of the 40-minute game. UNM led by as many as 20 points, outrebounded the Cowboys 47-29 and had four players score in double figures.
Junior point guard J.J. Caldwell quietly flirted with a triple double, finishing with eight points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and had three steals.
While Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said he was pleased with the fight his team showed and the defense it played, the Lobos still managed to shoot 48.3 percent, outscore the Cowboys 44-24 in the paint and hit its goal of making more free throws than the other team attempts (16-of-20 to Wyoming’s 7-of-12). The Lobos did allow 10 Cowboys 3-pointers and committed 19 turnovers, more than in their previous two games combined (15).
Sophomore Hunter Maldonado led all scorers with 27 points and hit four of Wyoming’s 10 3-pointers.
“I thought it was an unusual game because of the leads that we had,” said Weir, who noted his team’s 3-point defense allowed Wyoming to hit 10 from beyond the arc at a 35.7% clip. “… It was almost prevent defense, but we were just trying to kind of keep the game at bay, and I think we were trying to prevent quick scores and have them really use clock. …
“Maldonado obviously made some. He’s a terrific player, and with him, we really wanted to take away him getting to the rim. So some of his 3s at the end, I’m not saying we’re OK with, but we would accept.”
BOX SCORE: New Mexico 79, Wyoming 65
UP NEXT: NMSU at UNM, Saturday (Dec. 14), 5 p.m., AT&T SportsNet, 770 AM/94.5 FM