The University of New Mexico men's basketball team got all it could handle on the road at San José State, but held on to escape with a victory.
San José State (3-19, 0-11 MW) experienced turnover woes early and often, committing nine of them in the first eight minutes of the game. The shaky start was a recipe for digging a double-digit deficit as the Spartan fell behind 21-8 by the midway point of the first half.
The Lobos probably didn't cash in as many of the mistakes into points as they would've like, but things seemed to be trending in the right direction for an easy victory.
San José State had other ideas though. After starting just 6-of-18 from the floor, the Spartans found an offensive groove that was unstoppable—hitting 10 straight field goals to surge ahead of the Lobos before finally missing their last attempt of the half.
The beginning of that stretch coincided with a nearly six-minute drought for New Mexico. After surrendering the lead, senior guard Antino Jackson was able to tie the score at 26-26 on a layup with 4:27 remaining in the half and squared things up again a few minutes later with a 3-pointer.
The Spartans also stopped turning the ball over, doing so just twice over the final 12 minutes of the half. That—and the inability of the Lobos to stop the Spartans on the defensive end—resulted in a 39-36 halftime advantage for San José State, vaulting the home team's first half shooting to over 55 percent.
New Mexico has shown a propensity for successfully adjusting as the game progresses, and things eventually starting tilting in its favor.
For as hot as the Spartans were at the end of the first half, they were ice cold to start the second. San José State made just one basket in its first seven attempts from the floor and got careless handling the basketball again as the lead evaporated in a hurry.
UNM started to build some momentum after junior guard Anthony Mathis drilled a 3-pointer to give his team a 44-42 lead. Shortly thereafter, he finished an and-one opportunity after he was fouled on a layup with 12:17 remaining in the game to make the score 51-44.
The Spartans rallied again to string together an 11-2 run to move back out in front of the Lobos and extended the lead to 57-54 after Oumar Barry made a layup as the clock ticked inside the six-minute mark.
New Mexico needed someone to step up and lead the team offensively in an effort to avoid having the Spartans end the game the way they completed the first half.
Junior guard Troy Simons rose to the occasion to nail back-to-back 3-point baskets and give UNM a brief 60-59 lead with 4:42 to go. Then senior Sam Logwood and the defense helped close things out.
Logwood had been quiet for much of the game, but seemed to want the ball in his hands in the latter stages of the game.
He broke a tie after scoring on a layup inside of four minutes to play to make it 64-62. Then the senior added a pair of free throws later to make it two-possession game and later stretched the lead to 69-63 after he converted another San José State turnover into a layup at the other end.
With the clock becoming an issue, the Spartans needed to score quickly and hope for some Lobo misses at the free throw line. They did and the Lobos obliged as Logwood split a pair of free throws following a made basket by SJSU's Ryan Welage.
The Spartans got a big break after Nai Carlisle was fouled while making a layup on the next possession. He made the ensuing free throw to pull SJSU within 70-68 with 36.2 seconds left.
On the other end, Jackson was unsuccessful on a 3-point attempt and it appeared San José State would have a chance to tie or win the game, but Logwood stole the ball and was fouled with 3.8 seconds on the clock.
Logwood made good on just one of two again, but it ended up being enough as Welage was unable to tie the game after his 3-pointer failed to find the net.
Welage led all scorers with 22 points for the game. His teammate, Jacyee Hillsman, had 21 points before fouling out at the 2:44 mark. UNM was led by a pair of seniors making a return to the court. Jackson led New Mexico with 17 points, while Logwood chipped in 10—including the final six Lobo points.
The 71-68 victory earned UNM its second road victory on the season and put the team alone in third place in the conference standings. The Lobos will host the No. 2 team in the Mountain West, Boise State, on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 8 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.