Insert Hugh Greenwood’s name and a metaphor for a combustible element here. After the New Mexico point guard hit his fourth of five 3-pointer against Boise State, phrases involving Greenwood being on fire popped up consistently on Twitter.
Greenwood broke through for his first big game this season following an earlier wrist injury, scoring a game-high 20 points in the Lobos’ 84-75 home victory over the Broncos on Tuesday night. He came within two of matching his career-high of 22 points.
After the win, Greenwood said it was simply a matter of time for him to join the party already established by UNM’s Big Three of forward Cameron Bairstow, center Alex Kirk and guard Kendall Williams. Greenwood said that he’d been working on his stroke after studying game film and has been shooting better in practice.
“When my wrist was ready, I knew what I had to work on and I’ve been working on ever since. It actually feels a lot better,” Greenwood said.
Head coach Craig Neal praised Greenwood for making big shots throughout the game and the comeback from the injury that sidelined him for three games in December.
“I think he’s been so instrumental in trying to get our team together chemistry-wise, and he’s passed up shots in the past, but I think he played really free tonight. He played the way I envisioned him playing, and I think he can make shots from that.”
The fourth returning starter from last year’s Mountain West regular-season and tournament champion, Greenwood had been averaging 5.3 points per game in the 14 games he’s played. He hasn’t made more than two 3-point shots in any game this season prior to Tuesday night.
The other three have a 14-point per-game average, with fellow Aussie Bairstow leading the pack at 20-plus. Against Boise State, Williams scored 18 points, Bairstow 17 and Kirk 15.
Though Greenwood is known for other aspects of his play such as his defense and physical play, his point production was not what Bairstow, Williams and Kirk had. As a result, those three received more attention from local and national media. That didn’t faze Greenwood, he said.
“They’re the Big 3 for a reason,” he said. “They’ve been playing consistently all year and in the back of my mind I knew I needed to help them moving forward. I’ve been looking at film and things. And they’re still going to get theirs, but if I can chip in 10 points a game, that’s going to take a lot of pressure off of them.
Boise State coach Leon Rice joked about “that dang Aussie on Aussie crime” Greenwood committed. The Broncos feature a trio of Australian-born players in Anthony Drmic, Nick Duncan and Igor Hadziomerovic.
“He always plays good against us,” Rice said of Greenwood, who had 15 points and three treys at Boise State a year ago. “He’s a good shooter. We know that. We didn’t try to leave him open. We weren’t daring him.”
Unlike UNM’s home loss against UNLV last week, where the Lobos struggled from the start, Craig Neal’s squad was aggressive in the early stages, jumping a 12-4 lead by the 4 1/2-minute mark. UNM used another big run 9-0 run to extend its advantage to 32-15 en route to a 40-27 halftime lead.
UNM benefitted from poor shooting from Boise State through the first 20 minutes. The Broncos shot a dismal 27.8 percent from the field, making 10 of their 26 first-half attempts. UNM, meanwhile, shot nearly 52 percent over that same span (14 of 27).
Four Broncos hit double-figures: guard Derrick Marks with 19, Duncan with 16, center Ryan Watkins with 15 and guard Mikey Thompson with 11. Watkins also pulled down 22 rebounds.