Just 48 hours after losing a heart-wrenching game at the Air Force Academy, the UNM men's basketball team returned home to a raucous Pit crowd last night and displayed an equally raucous effort in deposing Georgia State University 91-78 in a non-conference game.
The Lobos started the game with a 15-2 lead, only to find themselves down by as much as 10 with four minutes left in the first half. But a 14-3 run to begin the second half, after UNM had trailed 48-43, gave it a lead it would not relinquish.
"We just hung together," UNM head coach Fran Fraschilla said. "The first half it looked like the same old, same old from the last couple of weeks, but our guys have a lot of heart and character and they responded well to adversity."
UNM (14-8, 3-5 in the Mountain West Conference) took its 13-point lead four minutes into the game. After Georgia State (21-4, 12-2 in the Trans American Athletic Conference) guard Shernard Long scored two points to end a long scoring drought, UNM guard Ruben Douglas intentionally fouled guard Darryl Cooper. He hit the basket, made the two free shots, then forward Thomas Terrell hit a long three to complete a seven-point possession for the Panthers and bring them to within 15-11.
Then for the next seven minutes, Georgia State hit four 3-pointers - two by Long and one each by Terrell and Cooper - to go up 31-24 with 7:38 to play. The Lobos closed the gap to 36-31 on a 3-pointer by Douglas, but Long killed the run with a three of his own, and Kevin Morris and Terrell each added 3-pointers to keep UNM at bay.
Down 48-38 with two minutes to play, guard Eric Chatfield buried a long 3-pointer and Brian Smith hit two free throws to bring the Lobos to within five at the half.
Both teams shot more than 50 percent in the first half - Georgia State at a 56.3 percent clip, and UNM at 53.8 percent. Georgia State hit seven of its 14 3-point attempts while UNM hit three of six attempts.
"I thought we played great in the first half," Georgia State head coach Lefty Driessell said. "I think we made a mistake by substituting while we were up by 10. Then in the second half, they came out with great intensity, and we just couldn't match it."
Wayland White scored the first UNM points of the second half on a putback of a Marlon Parmer miss. Then Douglas hit three 3-pointers in a row - the last as he fell to the floor - to put the Lobos up 57-51. Georgia State would close to within 66-63 with 11:35 to play, but by this time, its 3-point magic had worn off. The Panthers would hit only one trey the rest of the way and finished five-of-19 from beyond the arc in the second half.
Meanwhile, UNM stayed hot. Buckets by freshmen Patrick Dennehy and Alvin Broussard and a three by Tim Lightfoot put the Lobos up 76-66. Then a Parmer-to-White alley-oop and another White dunk - off a backboard feed by Douglas - clinched the win for UNM.
"The first half we played alright, but our defense was kind of shady," Douglas said. "We made an effort in the second half to stop their wide-open threes. They were making a mockery of our defense."
Douglas finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds and Chatfield finally found his way out of a shooting slump to notch 18 points on five-of-12 shooting. White added 18 points and eight rebounds, Smith scored 12 points and Parmer chipped in six, but had 10 assists on the night.
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
"We had a lot of guys out there step up and make some big plays," Fraschilla said. "I thought that was the best Ruben and Eric played together all year, I really think both of those guys have been looking to break out with each other. It was just a glimpse, really, of what we can be like."
Long led all Georgia State scorers with 28 points.