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Head coach Craig Neal exchanges words with referee Bob Staffen after Staffen called a fawl against New Mexico Saturday afternoon at WisePies Arena. The Lobos lost to Wyoming 70-68.
Head coach Craig Neal exchanges words with referee Bob Staffen after Staffen called a fawl against New Mexico Saturday afternoon at WisePies Arena. The Lobos lost to Wyoming 70-68.

Men's basketball: Lobos fall to Wyoming for second MW loss

In a battle between the top two scorers in the Mountain West, one player set a career high. The other missed the start for disciplinary reasons.

Wyoming guard Josh Adams proved to be as good as advertised Saturday in the Cowboys’ 70-68 victory over New Mexico at WisePies Arena, the Pokes’ first win in Albuquerque since 2003. The Mountain West leader dropped 38 points on the Lobos and was a threat from long range all afternoon, hitting seven 3-pointers on 11 attempts.

Elijah Brown, meanwhile, who did not start, finished with 13 points and played with foul trouble in the second half. New Mexico coach Craig Neal did not delve into Brown's limited play, but media reports stated Brown and others broke curfew during last Tuesday’s road trip to UNLV.

Brown missed the first 10 minutes and rode a stationary bike until he checked in at the 9:46 mark. Guard Xavier Adams started in Brown’s place and had a solid game, also scoring 13 points.

“Officially, I'll just say I had some players break some team rules and it was my decision,” Neal said. "I made the decision. I handled it in house and that's it.

Brown’s benching did not seem to negatively impact the game. The Lobos were down only two points, 17-15, in a back-and-forth game when he entered the contest.

Poor foul shooting, on the other hand, plagued UNM (10-7, 3-2 MW). In a game dominated by whistles on both sides, UNM made only 55.6 percent, or 15 of 27 attempts, from the charity stripe. The Lobos missed more free throws than they made in the first half.

Considering the number of fouls in the game, that impacted UNM’s production. Officials called 49 fouls total, 24 on UNM and 25 on Wyoming (10-9, 3-3 MW). Even Craig Neal had a technical foul. UNM never found a way to adapt to the calls on the floor, he said.

“I think we were trying to be too physical and they called fouls,” he said. “Once you do that, you've got to make adjustments and not foul. We talked to them about that. We just kept making the same mistake.”

Wyoming led by as many as seven points in the first half before Brown’s presence helped UNM claw back to a 30-29 halftime edge. Brown hit five straight points for UNM when he entered.

The Lobos pulled to a six-point lead, 46-40, in the second half before Josh Adams and the Cowboys came storming back with a 13-1 rally. Guard Jeremy Lieberman contributed heavily in the run with seven straight points, including a triple, and then assisting Adams on a bucket.

UNM made a comeback attempt late in the game,cutting the deficit to 68-66 in the final 26 seconds. However, on the play that could have tied the game, Cullen Neal turned the ball over on a traveling call driving to the rim. Josh Adams’s free throws iced it, even with Xavier Adams’s field goal with .5 left.

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Forward Tim Williams paced UNM’s scoring with 17 points pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Cullen Neal joined Brown and Xavier Adams with 13 points, while center Obij Aget had 11. The Lobos were 29.1 percent from the field (26 of 53), and made only one 3-pointer in seven tries.

After Josh Adams, only guard Jason McManamen reached double figures for Wyoming with 10 points. The Cowboys were 42 percent on field goals (21 of 50).

UNM also lost despite outrebounding Wyoming by a 39-27 margin.

J.R. Oppenheim is the assistant sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s basketball and women’s soccer. Contact him at or on Twitter @JROppenheim.

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