New Mexico makes statement in win over No. 6 San Diego State

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In a season that has seen the Mountain West as a whole not perform as well as in recent years, No. 6 San Diego State emerged as the best team in the conference. With a resume that includes a win at Kansas, the Aztecs looked to be the class of the conference entering their game at New Mexico on Saturday night. The Lobos were the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West, and their improved play on the defensive end of the floor is one reason why Craig Neal’s team was just a game back in the standings.

That defensive effort was on full display at The Pit, with New Mexico limiting San Diego State to 32.3% shooting from the field as they won 58-44. Xavier Thames is San Diego State’s best offensive player and New Mexico made life difficult for the senior guard, limiting him to just seven points on 3-for-15 shooting. And when Thames struggles, San Diego State is going to have problems offensively.

Two areas in which San Diego State has been able to hurt opponents throughout conference play are on the offensive boards and in their ability to get to the foul line. Steve Fisher’s team normally does a good job of attacking the paint, with Thames, J.J. O’Brien and Winston Shepard III all being capable dribble penetrators. New Mexico took that away, and it didn’t help matters that Mountain West’s top team in regards to free throw rate attempted just three free throws (missing all three) on the night.

San Diego State did manage to rebound 37% of its missed shots, but they converted those extra opportunities into just 14 second-chance points. For a team that isn’t particularly adept at knocking down perimeter shots those areas are critical, and the Lobos did an excellent job of preventing the Aztecs from taking advantage. The perimeter defenders moved well laterally, and center Alex Kirk did a very good job of blocking (five blocked shots) and changing shots around the basket.

New Mexico limited San Diego State to 0.75 points per possession, with the effort surpassing their performance in a home win over San Jose State (0.78) as the Lobos’ best in conference play. And with all due respect to the Spartans, clamping down on San Diego State is a far more impressive feat.

Offensively New Mexico shot 50% from the field, and once again senior forward Cameron Bairstow led the way. The Australian scored 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, and in a game that featured two other Mountain West Player of the Year hopefuls (Thames and UNM’s Kendall Williams) Bairstow may have vaulted himself to the top of the list.

Who will win Player of the Year? Which team will win the Mountain West regular season title? That remains to be seen, and it’s likely that the rematch at Viejas Arena on March 8 will determine both answers. In the first meeting this season between the Aztecs and Lobos, it was Craig Neal’s team that made the emphatic statement.

VIDEO: UMass Lowell game delayed by shattered backboard

Pat Duquette
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UMass Lowell’s game with Wheelock College was delayed for a little over an hour on Tuesday afternoon after a dunk attempt from Dontavius Smith broke the backboard.

The game resumed and is currently in the second half. Here’s the video of Smith shattering the glass after he took flight.

No. 13 Indiana bounces back with 83-73 win over St. John’s

Troy Williams
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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Yogi Ferrell had 22 points and seven assists to lead No. 13 Indiana to an 83-73 victory over St. John’s on Tuesday in the consolation round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

Freshman center Thomas Bryant had a career-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the Hoosiers (4-1), who lost to Wake Forest 82-78 in the closing seconds of their opening-round game.

Indiana will play the winner of the Chaminade-UNLV game for fifth place on Wednesday.

Federico Mussini and Ron Mvouika had 17 points each for the Red Storm (3-2), who played much better than they did in their 92-55 pasting from No. 19 Vanderbilt in the first round.

Ferrell had an answer every time St. John’s tried to close in in the second half. Four times the Red Storm got within seven points and three of those times Ferrell replied. He hit a short jumper, two free throws and a step-back jumper to keep St. John’s at bay.

The Red Storm got as close as 76-70 with 1:53 to play on two free throws by Yankuba Sima. James Blackmon Jr., who finished with 12 points, hit a 3 and after a St. John’s turnover he scored on a drive to put the game away.

Troy Williams had seven points and nine rebounds for Indiana.

The Hoosiers led by as many as 17 points in the first half and took a 42-31 lead at halftime.


St. John’s: This game started a little bit better than the opening round. In that game Vanderbilt opened by scoring the first nine points of the game. Against Indiana St. John’s trailed 9-2 at the start. … St. John’s had eight turnovers against Vanderbilt. The Red Storm had that many at halftime against the Hoosiers, They finished with 11.

Indiana: Bryant had 15 points at halftime, two off his career high for a game. … Ferrell was 9 of 10 from the free throw line. The rest of the Hoosiers were 6 of 14.

TALE OF THE TAPE: St. John’s trainer Ron Linfonte and Tim Garl, his counterpart at Indiana, are both in their 35th season at their respective schools. They are the two longest-tenured trainers in men’s Division I basketball.


St. John’s: plays loser of Chaminade-UNLV for seventh place on Wednesday.

Indiana: plays winner of Chaminade-UNLV for fifth place on Wednesday.