“I don’t want to say New Mexico is better than their 2-4 mark in the MWC would indicate, but they are definitely more talented. They are playing what amounts to a do-or-die game in terms of their at-large bid, and they are doing it in front of one of the toughest home crowds in the country. BYU is coming off of an emotional high, knocking off San Diego State at home in what may be the most hyped game in the history of the conference. Without question, this has all the makings of a let-down game for the Cougars.”
That, word for word, is what I had to say about the BYU’s trip to New Mexico in Friday’s weekend preview.
And what happened?
New Mexico scored 40 points in a 12 minute stretch late in the second half as they turned a 53-40 deficit into an 80-70 lead. And by the time this one was over, New Mexico had an 86-77 win over No. 9 BYU that they needed oh so desperately.
The best news for the Lobos? BYU didn’t play all that badly. Sure, Brandon Davies faded a bit down the stretch and Jackson Emery didn’t have his best shooting game, but Davies still finished with 16 points and Charles Abouo provided a nice lift off the bench.
And Jimmer? Jimmer was Jimmer. He had 32 points and seven assists. He was instrumental in BYU’s surge to a 13 point lead. He took his first rest of the game right before the twelve minute mark, which just so happen to coincide with the start of New Mexico’s run. When he came back into the game, Jimmer drilled back to back tough threes that extended BYU’s lead back to 67-62.
You may not want to believe it, but Jimmer is, in fact, human, and it did show tonight. Fredette missed a couple of decent looks that could have slowed New Mexico’s run, and his three missed free throws played a role in BYU’s inability to regain the momentum.
But lets put Jimmer to the back burner for a second.
This win was about what New Mexico did.
For the first time in what feels like months, Dairese Gary played like the Dairese Gary we all expected this season. He had 14 points and 10 assists on the afternoon. Drew Gordon was a monster in the paint, especially in the first half, finished with 15 points and 12 boards.
But the biggest story of this game were freshmen Tony Snell and Kendall Williams. Both had 16 points, and both hit a number of big shots down the stretch to help the Lobos overcome that 13 point deficit.
New Mexico is a talented basketball team. Gary is arguably the best non-Jimmer point guard in the Mountain West. Drew Gordon could very well be the best low-post player. Philip McDonald is a capable scorer on the perimeter. Snell, Williams, and Alex Kirk are all talented freshmen. The issue for this team has been experience, and experience playing together. This is a new team that got newer with the addition of Gordon midseason.
Coming in, they had lost six of their last ten games, including a 2-4 start in the Mountain West. This win puts the Lobos back into the bubble conversation, but they still have a lot of work to do until they can feel comfortable about their at-large chances. Could this win be the spark they need to turn around their season?
Only time will tell.
But as of right now, I can confidently say that New Mexico is a much better team than their record indicates.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.