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Redshirt sophomore guard Elijah Brown (4) reaches out as players scramble for the ball Tuesday night at WisePies Arena. The Lobos lost their last home game this season to San Diego State University 83-56.
Redshirt sophomore guard Elijah Brown (4) reaches out as players scramble for the ball Tuesday night at WisePies Arena. The Lobos lost their last home game this season to San Diego State University 83-56.

Men's Basketball: Lobos fall to SDSU, on four-game losing streak

This time around, when the fans started departing from WisePies Arena with 3:49 left to play, there was no epic comeback to regret missing. Nor did New Mexico’s 83-56 loss on Tuesday night come down to a controversial call from the officials.

San Diego State’s sizable lead remained to the final buzzer.

By the time the final media timeout came in the second half, the Lobos (16-14, 9-8 MW) found themselves giving up a 17-2 run and down 74-52. The Aztecs capped the blowout victory by scoring 11 of the final 15 points for the final margin.

“We’ve got guys trying to do things they can’t do and not playing to their strengths,” UNM coach Craig Neal said. “And when they play to their strengths and we do what we’re supposed to, and play our roles, I think we’re really good. But we’ve got to figure that out.”

The game was a far cry from the previous meeting between the Aztecs and Lobos. In that game, the Mountain West backtracked on an official’s call made on an inbounds play that eventually led to overtime and a Lobo loss.

In the rematch, SDSU (22-8, 15-2 MW) had such a sizable lead that many of the 14,540 in attendance began leaving for the exits early. Last time that happened, UNM rallied from 16 points down to slip past Boise State.

The defeat extended UNM’s losing streak to four straight, the longest skid since falling to Rice then losing four straight games in Hawaii just prior to conference play’s start.

The loss also marked a tough night to honor UNM’s three seniors – all walk-ons to the team – in Tim Jacobs, Connor Joy and Michael Nesbitt.

SDSU, featuring the league’s most potent defensive unit, clamped down on the Lobos from the gate. The Aztecs contained UNM to only 14-for-39 from the field, a 35.9 percent mark. In the first half, UNM connected on only six field goals on 18 tries.

The Aztecs also solved Tim Williams’ consistency and Elijah Brown’s firepower.

Williams did not take his first official shot until 25 minutes into the game – his only shot from the field in the first half was waved off to a travel call. He finished with 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting.

Brown, whose shooting has been hit and miss over the last few games, went cold from the field after making only 2 of his 14 attempts. His foul shooting propelled his game to a team-high 18 points, two shy from the game lead. He led UNM’s scorers for the 20th time this season.

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San Diego State, which had already locked up the Mountain West regular season title, entered the game off a 66-63 loss to Boise State on Saturday. However, the Aztecs rarely lose two games in a row. They are now 25-1 in games immediately following a loss.

After a tight start, UNM looked to take early control of the contest with a 13-0 run that pushed the Lobos up 16-4. Yet SDSU countered with a 16-0 spurt of its own to surge ahead. As the defense contained UNM’s offense, the Aztecs held a 42-31 lead – its highest point total through 20 minutes this season.

SDSU then outpaced UNM 41-25 in the latter half by making 57.7 percent from the field.

“Believe it or not, I thought we did some really good things,” Neal said. “They just applied the pressure. We got off to a really good start, made some substitutions and we weren’t locked into what we were doing.”

Before SDSU’s late surge, UNM had an opportunity to seize the momentum. Guard Elijah Brown gathered a steal and tried to put up a shot, but SDSU’s Matt Shrigley brought his arm across Brown’s face for a hard foul. After review, the officials determined Shrigley committed a Flagrant 2 foul, and he was ejected.

Brown then made all four foul shots, two for the initial foul and another two for the flagrant against him. It cut the game to 56-50, but two bad shots and an Obij Aget turnover swung the momentum back to the Aztecs. Their 26-6 run to close out the game ensued.

Once again, New Mexico could not find scoring off the bench. San Diego State’s reserves scored 28 points while the Lobos netted only seven. UNM also gave up 31 points on 20 turnovers.

After Brown and Williams, guard Cullen Neal chipped in 10 points.

Forward Malik Pope led SDSU offensively with 20 points, followed by guard Trey Kell with 15 points and reserve Dakarai Allen with 11. The Aztecs were 55 percent from the field (27-for-49).

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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