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The Lobos storm the court to celebrate after their victory against Boise State for the second place position in the Mountain West Conference Wednesday night at WisePies Arena. The Lobos beat Boise State 80-78.

The Lobos storm the court to celebrate after their victory against Boise State for the second place position in the Mountain West Conference Wednesday night at WisePies Arena. The Lobos beat Boise State 80-78.

Men's Basketball: Lobos rally from 15 points down to beat Boise State

New Mexico found itself down 15 points to Boise State with 6:01 left to play Wednesday night. Several hundred of the 12,434 fans in attendance started filing out of WisePies Arena.

That proved to be a mistake.

The Lobos pulled off the biggest late-game comeback in school history to lock down second place in the Mountain West standings, utilizing a 19-2 run to prevail 80-78. Boise State, who had been one half game behind UNM heading into the contest, fell back to fifth.

UNM last overcame a 15-point deficit in 2010. However, this was the first time they’d been able to make up so much ground so late in the game.

“The fans that left with six minutes to go, they missed a hell of a game. And the fans that stayed were really engaged and helped us. Our guys had a lot of fun,” head coach Craig Neal said. “We stayed the course.”

Neal said he didn’t realize that fans had started walking out of the arena as the game was going, but guard Elijah Brown said he did.

“I was a little hurt, but I mean we’ve got to play in there whether it’s an empty gym or we have 15,000 in there,” he said. “We can’t really do nothing about it. They left early, but we didn’t change what we do. We just felt we always had a chance to win the game.”

A referee’s call wasn’t going to decide the decision in this one. Both teams had recently fallen victim to officials rulings – later determined as incorrect – that cost them wins, UNM to San Diego State and Boise State to Colorado State. Even though the referees examined seven different plays over the course of the night, the Lobos would not rely on the replay this time.

UNM scored 10 straight points beginning with a Tim Williams free throw. Guard Elijah Brown contributed with a four-point play, and Williams added a bucket to cut the margin to 76-70.

After a Boise State field goal with 3:12 left, UNM clamped down defensively and did not allow another Bronco score. Williams and Brown again provided the spark as they scored all nine of the final points.

Brown finished with a team-high 26 points on a 7-for-17 shooting night, including four 3-pointers. He also made eight free throws on 12 attempts. Williams added 18 points, largely from his 10 free throws on 13 shots.

“I just tried to relax,” Brown said. “The last few games I haven’t really shot the ball well and I think it’s just because I’ve been pressing so much. Once I saw that we had that deficit and I felt the vibe within myself, the whole vibe, I was feeling it.”

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UNM survived a strong effort from Boise State guard Anthony Drmic, a Bronco stalwart who had come off the bench in the last three games. He dropped six 3-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 30 points.

Forward James Webb III, who along with Williams and Brown are contenders for the conference’s player of the year award, joined Drmic in double figures with 18 points.

A defensive slugfest in the first half turned into a furious rally from the 3-point line. UNM and Boise State had battled to a tight 22-17 score with 6:57 remaining before they made it rain from range. For the next three minutes, both teams dropped a combined 11 3-pointers.

The Lobos got back-to-back triples from Jordan Hunter, two more from Cullen Neal and another from Dane Kuiper. Drmic made sure the Broncos kept pace when he drained five over that span, with Lonnie Jackson adding one.

For all the defensive pressure UNM flashed in the first half, Boise State found a rhythm to start the second half. With UNM ahead 46-41, the Broncos went on a 14-0 run to grab its first lead at 55-46. Another offense run later turned into the the 15-point advantage Boise found itself late in the game.

From the field UNM finished at 45.1 percent (23 of 51) after a 50 percent shooting mark in the first half. Boise State, meanwhile, was 50 percent in both halves and were 31 of 62 for the game. The Broncos did struggle from the foul line at 9 of 24 for the game, including 2 of 10 in the second half.

“You can’t get the yips at the free throw line,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Their kid made some big shots down the stretch and there are some things we can do a little better.”

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 assistantsports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @JROppenheim.

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