Kendall Williams went down early against New Mexico State, but he wasn’t out for long.
Williams, the scoring leader for the No. 16 New Mexico men, rolled his right ankle early in Wednesday night’s Rio Grande Rivalry game in Las Cruces. He hobbled off the Pan American Center court but returned minutes later.
He didn’t miss a step. His career-high 24 points led the Lobos to a 68-63 victory over the Aggies. It is the second UNM win over its in-state rival in five days: the Lobos won this season’s previous meeting 73-58 last Saturday at The Pit.
Williams, who did not score his first points until the 12:41 mark of the first half, connected on seven of his 12 attempts from the field, including two 3-pointers. He made all eight of his shots from the free-throw line, and his 24 points matched a career-high total. He scored 24 in an overtime victory against Indiana State earlier this season.
Unlike their earlier meeting, when UNM held a six-point or greater advantage, NMSU took control early in the first half.
The Aggies built a 25-14 lead on the Lobos through the first 11 minutes before UNM mounted a comeback. Williams and junior forward Cameron Bairstow scored 22 of UNM’s 26 points and UNM closed the half with a 34-32 lead. From that point, UNM did not trailed again but never led by more than eight points.
Junior guard Tony Snell and sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood joined Williams in double-figure scoring. Snell had 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting. Greenwood added 10 points with six rebounds and two blocks. He currently ranked second on the team with 11 blocks. Bairstow netted nine points and pulled down seven rebounds.
UNM shot 23 of 55 from the field, 6 of 20 from the 3-point line and 16 of 22 from the free-throw line.
NMSU was on fire from outside in the first half, hitting 6 of 7 on 3-point attempts. That clip cooled in the second 20 minutes and the Aggies finished 10 of 17 from long range. Overall, NMSU hit 21 of 55 from the field and was 11 of 20 from the foul line.
For the fourth time in school history and the second time under head coach Steve Alford, UNM has started the season with 12 straight victories. The Lobos were 17-0 in 1967-68, 12-0 in 1973-74 and 12-0 in 2009-10. UNM won conference championships those seasons.
UNM is one of eight NCAA Division I teams still undefeated, joining Arizona, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Michigan, Syracuse and Wyoming. The Lobos will take on No. 11 Cincinnati in a Dec. 27 road contest, and Wyoming is a Mountain West Conference foe.
The Lobos has won 10 of its last 11 meetings against NMSU. They lead the all-time series with a 115-95 record.