New Mexico got off to a good start, but faced a late-game deficit for the second time in as many games — and wound up with the same result as the Lobos failed to close the gap late.
Despite a good defensive effort by the Lobos and missed opportunities for the Horned Frogs down the stretch, TCU did just enough to hang on for a 69-67 win to advance to the championship round of the Emerald Coast Classic.
"We're going to play teams very similar to TCU this year, they're going to be bigger than us, stronger than us, they're going to be more experienced than us," UNM head coach Paul Weir said in a release. "They have a lot of things we don't, so we're trying to accentuate the things we have, which to me would be speed, shooting, depth and conditioning and trying to bring those into the game as much as we can."
The Lobos (3-2, 0-0 MW) had three different players get in the box score early as senior Sam Logwood made a jumper to open the scoring. Fellow senior Joe Furstinger registered a layup and junior guard Troy Simons got in on the action with a 3-pointer to put UNM up 7-2 in first couple of minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Texas Christian got off to a sluggish start, missing three of its first four shots and committing three turnovers during that same stretch.
The Horned Frogs found their poise and started knock down shots, but the Lobos still enjoyed a lead for the majority of the first half.
Logwood finished with a layup to give UNM a 23-20 lead at the 7:20 mark, but then things began to shift in favor of the Horned Frogs.
TCU reeled off a 20-8 run to seize control of the game, following the lead of senior guard Kenrich Williams, who led the charge with 13 first-half points.
Furstinger was able to get a late score for UNM late in the half to draw the Lobos within 40-33. Chris McNeal had a chance to pull New Mexico closer heading into the locker room, but missed a 3-point attempt after collecting a steal and hoisting a shot.
Logwood had the first points of the second half as well, hitting a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to five points, but the Lobos couldn't seem to string together a run to get any closer.
In fact, TCU was able to grow its lead and maintain a double-digit advantage on numerous occasions in the second half. The Horned held a 13-point advantage as late as the 12:21 mark after JD Miller was able to finish around the rim to make the score 58-45.
But New Mexico would not go quietly, rallying for a 14-3 run to slice into the lead and make it a game again. McNeal made three quick baskets and, after three consecutive TCU turnovers, Antino Jackson drilled a 3-point basket to make it 61-57 with 8:31 to play.
Both teams went cold for several minutes following a layup by TCU senior forward Ahmed Hamdy. The Horned Frogs went nearly three and a half minutes before hitting another field goal.
But New Mexico didn't capitalize on the opportunity at all, going nearly five minutes without making a shot from the floor — as the Horned Frogs maintained a four-point lead even after Simons ended the drought with a layup with 2:17 left in the game to make the score 68-64.
The Lobos missed their next four shots and TCU had a chance to slam the door on UNM but were unable to do so after missing four straight free throws — and five of its last six — down the stretch.
McNeal got his team within striking distance after connecting on a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game and had a chance to be the hero after the Lobos advanced the ball and called timeout with 1.9 seconds left.
The guard inbounded the ball and got the ball right back, setting up for a potential game-winning shot. TCU didn't do a good job getting back to the shooter and McNeal was able to get off a clean look. But the shot was well off the mark and the Horned Frogs escaped with a 69-67 win.
In addition to the long scoring drought, UNM struggled rebounding the ball. The Lobos had an off shooting night, posting a 34.3 percent offensive effort and were outworked on the glass to the tune of 46-35.
TCU struggled from the free throw line, missing nearly half of its attempts — making just 9-of-17 — but shot 47.5 percent from the floor to hang on for the victory.
Things won't get any easier for the Lobos as they draw the Maryland Terrapins as their consolation prize. The Terps had one five straight to open the season — four of which were by double digits — before falling 63-61 to Saint Bonaventure in the closing seconds later on Friday.
Saint Bonaventure will meet TCU for the Emerald Coast Classic title on Saturday at 5 p.m., while New Mexico and Maryland square off at 2 p.m.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.