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Redshirt sophomore guard Elijah Brown scores against Utah State at WisePies Arena Saturday night. The Lobos won 77-59. 

Redshirt sophomore guard Elijah Brown scores against Utah State at WisePies Arena Saturday night. The Lobos won 77-59. 

Men's basketball: Lobos outrun Utah State for third straight MW win

The run-and-gun Lobos kept running and gunning to their third straight win to open Mountain West play.

New Mexico dictated the tempo throughout the first half against Utah State Saturday afternoon at WisePies Arena, playing what could be the best 20 minutes it has played so far this season in a 77-59 victory.

The Lobos (10-6, 3-2 MW), who boast more possessions than any other team in the league, had another 70 possessions against Utah State. They converted that pace to a 50-percent shooting effort, or 29 of 58 from the field.

The game was proof that UNM is maturing, according to head coach Craig Neal. He said his team demonstrated it Saturday. The young Lobos started strong and finished the opening half strong, something they haven’t always done this season.

“Since the world was crashing down on us when we were coming down on Hawaii and now we're off to a 3-0 start, I'm not sure how much I can say about my team,” Neal said. “They're resilient and we played the way we wanted to play.”

The first half in particular, UNM’s speedy pace came through. The Lobos utilized its transition game in a 14-0 run at the midway points in the half. Center Obij Aget and reserve guard Jordan Hunter each scored four points in that span.

Spearheaded by stout defense that held the Aggies (9-6, 1-3 MW) without a bucket for seven minutes, UNM forced four steals and then scored three times in the rally. It helped UNM build a 31-12 lead before UNM held a 43-18 halftime edge. UNM also made 63.3 percent on field goals, 19 of 30 attempts.

UNM found production inside in the half, outscoring Utah State 32-8 in points in the paint. The Lobos finished the game 44-28 in low-post scoring.

In some games UNM hasn’t always started well or manage to end a half strong. Neither was the case Saturday. The Lobos jumped out to an early lead and had a run to take control then held Utah State scoreless for the last 3:11.

“We still have some work to do in that area, but each game we make it a focus to start strong and close strong,” guard Sam Logwood said. “If we don't do those, it can come back and bite us in the long run.”

The tempo did drop in the second half and Utah State outscored UNM 41-34 through the second half. It didn’t pose much of a problem for UNM, however, as Utah State only had one run with of six points. The Lobo lead stayed around 20 points through the half.

Neal attributed that to UNM being unable to guard defensively rather than USU controlling the tempo. The Aggies typically run at a slower pace.

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“We were up 25. I'm not going to try to beat them by 50,” Neal said. “I mean, I'm trying to get a good shot and get guys in. I could have made it an 80-possession game.

Points emerged from the regular places. UNM forward Tim Williams netted 21 points to lead all scorers and hit nine field goals, with guard Cullen Neal adding 12 points.

Guard Elijah Brown scored 18 for his 15th double-digit night. He has not missed a free throw since conference play began last week, extending his streak to 26 made foul shots through three MW games.

Williams drew Utah State forward Jalen Moore, a top-10 Mountain West scorer, on the defensive assignment. He and the Lobos held Moore to six points in the first half. Bolstered when Utah State’s offense produced in the second half, Moore scored 11 more points to finish with 17.

“He's a great player (with an) inside-out game. He can shoot 3, put it on the floor,” Williams said, referring to Moore. “Collectively, the team just has to do a good job. We did a great job on him in the first half then the second half I think he got off a little bit.”

Guard Chris Smith had 14 points to join Moore in double figures for Utah State.

On the game, Utah State was 34.3 percent on field goals (23 of 67). The Aggies did outpace UNM on second-chance points at 22-11 and bench points at 16-12. UNM also won the rebound battle 44-35.

UNM’s turnover situation improved from the previous two games. After two 20-turnover games against Nevada and Fresno State, the team contained it to 15 points versus Utah State.

“I'm winning basketball games so I'm not going to get too caught up in what we're going there, but it's better,” Neal said. “It's improving.”

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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