Paradise was lost on the Lobos.
The University of New Mexico’s six-day journey to the islands came to a merciful end Sunday afternoon, but not before some more injury could be added to insult that Texas A&M doled out in the second half of a 64-51 win in the consolation bracket final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Powered by a 13-0 run that coincided with UNM senior Deshawn Delaney sitting on the Lobos bench with foul trouble, the Aggies shot 62.5 percent in the second half and turned what was a seven-point deficit into a runaway victory over the final 16 minutes.
“They just came and we didn’t answer their intensity,” Lobos coach Craig Neal said. “We didn’t play as good a defense in the second half as we did in the first half. You’re not going to beat anybody if you allow somebody to shoot 62 percent from the field in the second half.”
Plenty of that damage for the Aggies came from Danuel House, a 6-foot-7 wing who transferred from Houston and was ruled eligible to play this season on Friday morning by the NCAA. He was flown to San Juan in time for Sunday’s game and made his impact felt immediately with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with six rebounds, two assists and a highlight reel dunk.
He was one of three Aggies ruled eligible before Sunday’s game who hadn’t played yet this season.
Delaney’s third foul came at 16:10 left in the game, sending him to the bench with a 34-27 Lobos lead. When he sat, the Aggies pounced with a 13-0 run over the next four minutes. By the time Delaney checked back in the game with 11:13 remaining, the game, and certainly the energy, had already clearly slipped away from UNM.
Delaney finished with a team-high 13 points, 10 of which were in the first half, and three rebounds. Fellow senior Hugh Greenwood had 10 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three assists. For the second game in a row as the primary point guard, Greenwood struggled to find his shot, going 3-of-12 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point range (he was 3-of-14 in Friday’s game).
UNM had 16 turnovers with only Tim Jacobs (three minutes) and Xavier Adams (12 minutes) not committing any. The Lobos shot 34.7 percent (17-of-49) from the field and were outrebounded 36-29.
“Just a tough game,” Craig Neal said. “They’ve got a nice team. They play hard. They’re athletic. They can make shots. I thought we did a good job of keeping them off the offensive boards because they’re averaging 17 a game and we held them to 11, but a lot of it is they shot 62 percent (in the second half), so there wasn’t a lot of opportunities.”
Junior Jordan Goodman, who had a breakout performance Friday with 19 points in 19 minutes, had just five Sunday in 17 minutes.
UNM finished the ESPN-owned, three-game event in Puerto Rico with a 1-2 record. It lost to the ACC’s Boston College and SEC’s Aggies with a win over the Atlantic 10’s George Mason sandwiched between.
If the two losses weren’t painful enough, leading scorer Cullen Neal went down in Thursday’s loss to Boston College with a severe ankle injury (he was on crutches Sunday) and will have an MRI when the team returns to Albuquerque early this week. The man that replaced him in the starting lineup, junior Arthur Edwards, made a steal with 4:06 remaining in Sunday’s game only to turn it right back over in a bit of a collision with Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones near the Aggies’ bench. Edwards immediately grabbed his hand and walked off toward the Lobos bench with the game still going on.
Craig Neal said after the game a bone in Edwards’ hand had broken and was sticking out of the skin as he walked toward the end of the bench. Like Cullen Neal, more details on that injury and a timetable on how long he’ll be out of the lineup will be known later this week.
The Lobos host USC on Sunday in the Pit for a 2 p.m. game that will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network.