New Mexico beats Utah State 78-63
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Anthony Mathis equaled a career-high with 25 points, including a career-best seven 3-pointers, helping New Mexico to a 78-63 win Wednesday night over Utah State.
The Aggies (14-13, 7-7 Mountain West) got a career game out of Sam Merrill, who finished with 33 points and seven 3-pointers.
“It’s a shame to spoil an offensive night like Sam Merrill had,” Utah State coach Tim Duryea said. “He was phenomenal shooting the basketball.”
There was little New Mexico could to stop him, Lobos coach Paul Weir said.
“Once shooters like that get open looks, then they start making tough ones,” Weir said. “Man he was really good. In the first half in particular, his shot-making ability was pretty special.”
Mathis, however, provided a pretty solid answer for New Mexico.
The Lobos (13-14, 8-6) had plenty of help as Makuach Maluach had 16 points and Chris McNeal and Sam Logwood added 10 apiece.
Mathis scored New Mexico’s last 11 points of the first half, forming the bulk of a 14-7 run that left the Lobos with a 36-34 lead at halftime.
Utah State scored the first eight points of the second half, but the Aggies hit the skids midway through the second half, going 8:36 without a field goal in a 17-2 New Mexico run that put the Lobos up 63-52. Mathis had another three 3-pointer streak during that stretch.
“He’s a premier player,” Weir said. “As great as Merrill was tonight, we had Anthony Mathis. He’s that level guy for us right now. He’s making shots at an incredible clip.”
And Mathis has expanded his game.
“When I first got here, the poor kid just couldn’t guard and now he’s out there doing stuff,” Weir said. “Guys aren’t just ripping and scoring on him. He’s making steals, he’s taking charges, he gets rebounds. He’s doing all those things. He’s doing those other kinds of things that allows his offense gifts to show themselves.”
New Mexico forced 23 turnovers while only committing nine, turning that into a 23-8 points-off-turnovers advantage, including 24-9 edge on fast-break points.
“Pretty simple,” Duryea said. “We threw the ball all over the lot. Turned it over. The only thing we talked about in the game was taking care of the ball. . Down the stretch, we were an absolute mess offensively in the half court. Unforced errors, travels, carries, throw it out of bounds.”
In addition, the Lobos took 65 shots compared to 39 for Utah State.
Utah State had won four of its last five.
The last time these teams played, New Mexico was limited to six scholarship players and a walk-on as two players were suspended, another was injured and a fourth was out because of a death in the family. The Lobos had all 10 scholarship players available Wednesday for the first time since Jan. 3.
The Lobos are at Wyoming on Tuesday in what will be a game with conference-tournament-seeding ramifications. The top five teams in the conference receive an opening-round bye.
Utah State is home against conference-leader No. 23 Nevada.