Brown’s big game lifts New Mexico over Wyoming 78-71
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — With 33 points and 10 rebounds Saturday, Elijah Brown displayed what the New Mexico and Mountain West coaches expected to see when he was declared pre-season player of the year.
Whenever the Lobos needed a bucket or a big play, there was Brown to provide it as he drove New Mexico to a 78-71 win over Wyoming.
Tim Williams added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Damien Jefferson came off the bench to add seven crucial points, all coming during a game-deciding 11-2 run that put the Lobos (12-8, 5-3) up 70-61 with four minutes remaining.
Hayden Dalton had 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench for the Cowboys (13-7, 3-4).
The game turned with seven minutes left as Jefferson hit a jumper, followed immediately by a 3-pointer.
“I just thought he would make a play,” Lobos coach Craig Neal said. “He’s one of those kids that can make his own shot. I knew we were in a good position because I knew they were going to guard him with (forward Alan) Herndon. We have a hard enough time guarding him with our best defender in practice.”
Brown closed out the game from the foul line, hitting 5 of 6 free throws.
Three other Wyoming players were in double figures, with Justin James adding 14.
Wyoming: The Cowboys’ loss drops them back into the second tier logjam of teams with four conference losses. It also ends a stretch of two consecutive wins for the Cowboys at the Pit.
New Mexico: Brown, who spent the early part of the season struggling with a lingering hamstring injury, then battling inconsistency as he tried to work his way back to full strength, has been the catalyst as the Lobos have awoken from the doldrums of three straight losses — two at home — to win three straight, including two on the road. The win thrusts New Mexico back into the conference conversation.
“I believe this team is a two-headed monster with him and Tim Williams,” Cowboys coach Allen Edwards said. “We had a game plan to try to make it rough on them. We weren’t going to limit their shots. They are guys, regardless of what’s going on, they are going to get their attempts up. I think (Brown) did a good job maneuvering off ball screens and pindowns and things like that and got some good looks.”
Regaining the edge at home was important after blowing a 25-point, second-half lead two weeks ago at home against Nevada, Neal said.
“I like the way my team is playing,” he said. “We emphasized after our last two home games that we need to take care of home the rest of the way and play well on the road. I think we can play a little bit better at home. We just need to relax a little bit.”
New Mexico had a 13-7 turnover advantage and turned that into a 13-1 edge in points off turnovers.
“It was timely turnovers, carelessly turning the ball over,” Edwards said. “Live ball turnovers and gave them opportunities to play in transition. I thought that hurt us.”
Wyoming at home Wednesday against UNLV. The Cowboys have won two of the last three games.
New Mexico plays at home Tuesday against Utah State. The Aggies have won two of the last three meetings between the teams.