Lobos rally behind Jackson at end, beat San Diego St. 79-75
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Antino Jackson scored five key points in the closing moments, including the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds left, to lift New Mexico to a 79-75 victory Saturday over San Diego State.
The Lobos finished the game with a 13-2 run over the final five minutes to erase a 73-66 deficit for four wins in their last five games.
“I wasn’t thinking about nothing, just make a play,” Jackson said of his game-winner. “I knew when I got space, I was going to shoot the ball and that’s what I did.”
New Mexico coach Paul Weir had a different description for the play.
“We had an action to kind of let him go one on one,” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to be 35 different dribbles in 10 different directions or whatever that was.”
Jackson finished with a career-high 24 points and six assists and Anthony Mathis added a career-high 21 points for New Mexico (10-11, 5-3 Mountain West).
Malik Pope and Devin Watson each scored 16 for the Aztecs (11-7, 3-4), who have lost three straight by a total of 11 points and have held the lead in the final five minutes of each of them.
“They’re kids and they want to be rewarded and when you’ve had three in a row like this, it gets to be frustrating,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “They want to be rewarded for all their hard work.”
Makuach Maluach scored 15 and Joe Furstinger added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds for New Mexico to offset a lack of production from the rest of the squad.
San Diego State was beset by foul troubles, with starters Jalen McDaniels, who still finished with 13 points, and Matt Mitchell each sitting for long stretches.
McDaniels scored six of his points in an 8-0 SDSU first-half run that put it up 20-13, a lead that grew to 48-38 at halftime.
“Unfortunately we didn’t have a great first half here (Saturday) at all,” Weir said. “Probably our worst defensive half in a while. And quite honestly, the second half was probably best defensive half of the season. We felt like the game was coming our way.”
Behind a productive second half from behind the arc — the Lobos hit 8-of-15 3-pointers after the break — New Mexico was able to gradually close the gap, then used a 9-0 run capped by Jackson’s fourth 3-pointer of the second half to go up 75-73 with three minutes remaining.
The Aztecs remain in fifth pending Utah State’s late home game Saturday against Wyoming.
New Mexico’s win moves it into sole possession of third place in the Mountain West, a half-game ahead of Fresno State, whose game Saturday at conference cellar-dweller and winless Air Force was at the very least postponed and possibly cancelled because of the federal government shutdown.
New Mexico guard Troy Simons, originally suspended a game by the Mountain West for twice collecting two technicals in a game, has now missed four additional games after sitting out Saturday on Weir’s decision. And leading Lobos scorer Sam Longwood sat out his fifth straight game with a shoulder injury. The absences leave the Lobos with just eight scholarship players. Weir said there is no update on their status moving forward
KEY STATS: The teams combined for six turnovers in the first half, three apiece. New Mexico finished the game with five turnovers, while the Aztecs had 12, six of those on charges.
The Lobos were 18 of 25 from the foul line while San Diego State was 13-of-15.
“I wish we would have got to the foul line more,” Dutcher said. “I think that was a big key of the game. They got to the foul line more than we did, 25 to 15. Ten more free throws.”
San Diego State is next at home Wednesday against Colorado State.
New Mexico also plays the Rams next at home Jan. 27.