San Jose State stood toe-to-toe with the University of New Mexico men's basketball team for a while, but the Lobos eventually wore the Spartans down and cruised to a 32-point blowout on Wednesday evening.
New Mexico (11-13, 5-7 MW) registered the first points of the game after sophomore point guard Keith McGee drilled a 3-pointer to open the scoring. But Noah Baumann answered right back to tie things up, one of eight first-half ties along the way.
The Spartans tied things up at 9-9 just a tick over four minutes into the game and even took a couple of brief leads in the early going.
UNM head coach Paul Weir said San Jose State made things tough and took away some things he and his team wanted to do early, but the Lobos were able to keep pace and a second McGee 3-pointer brought things to a dead heat, 19-19, with 9:24 remaining in the half.
The Lobos seemed to turn the corner when Vance Jackson nailed back-to-back triples to put New Mexico up 33-30. UNM never trailed again and continued to began to build a sizable lead thanks to applying some pressure that seemed to wear down the Spartans and resulted in a 42-32 lead at the break.
Weir credited the Lobos' second-half defensive effort, saying the first four minutes after halftime really set the tone for the rest of the game.
It helped that UNM was sizzling from behind the 3-point line, shooting nearly 52 percent as a team for the game on the way to hitting 14 long-range shots, but New Mexico held a 14-2 point edge in points of turnovers and dominated pace of play with a 35-2 advantage in fast break points.
UNM junior transfer Corey Manigault had a solid game on both ends of the floor, turning in a 17-point performance that included six rebounds, a couple of assists, a steal and a block to round out his stat line.
"(Manigault) has had a long year in a lot of different ways," Weir said. "I'm really glad that he broke through a little bit because he has really committed himself in practice here of late."
Weir said the team has a rule that, if a player has to ask for a substitute because he's been playing so hard, that player can go back in whenever they are ready. He said tonight was the first time this season Manigault has put his hand up to ask for a break.
"To me that's a sign of growth from thinking mostly about yourself to thinking about the greater good of the team and it was a big step," the head coach said.
Prior to the first four minutes of the second half ticking away, New Mexico had pushed its lead to 23 points, moving ahead 57-34 on the scoreboard on a Manigault layup.
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McGee and Manigualt combined to shoot 75 percent from the field and got plenty of support from their teammates as San Jose continued to struggle.
Senior guard Anthony Mathis got loose and drilled some 3-pointers, chipping in 16 points on the night to the cause, while sophomore Makauch Maluach called 14.
The Lobos limited the Spartans to just 35 percent shooting on the night and increased its lead to as many as 33 points, taking a 90-57 lead in the waning moments of the contest.
New Mexico's 92-60 victory over San Jose State probably isn't all that impressive as the Spartans have lost several lop-sided matchups during their 14-game losing streak, but Weir said the result could be the start to something good — provided the Lobos carry the momentum into the next game.
The Lobos will take on Fresno State on Saturday, Feb. 16 when UNM hosts the Bulldogs at 5 p.m. in Dreamstyle Arena aka The Pit.