AP NEWS

San Jose State beats New Mexico for 1st time in 13 tries

February 5, 2017
New Mexico's Elijah Brown (4) drives to the basket while guarded by San Jose State's Brandon Clarke (15), as New Mexico's Obij Aget (11) watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Juan Antonio Labreche)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Ryan Welage scored 20 points to lead four San José State players in double figures Saturday as the Spartans won 78-68 for their first victory over New Mexico in 13 tries.

“This is one of the, if not the biggest win in program history,” San José State coach Dave Wojcik said.

The Spartans (11-10, 4-6 Mountain West) pulled ahead midway through the second half, using a 14-2 run to take control of the game.

“We kept our composure,” Wojcik said. “We had good poise. We had a good flow to the game offensively. I thought we controlled the tempo of the game for us. And ultimately, we made shots and created that lead for us.”

The Lobos (14-10, 7-5) pulled within 70-65 with 1:53 left on Damien Jefferson’s, wild, off-balance bank as he was fouled, but he missed the free throw and San José State was awarded the ball out of bounds after both teams scrambled for the loose ball.

Elijah Brown had 21 points and Sam Logwood added 19 for New Mexico, but Brandon Clarke and Terrell Brown each had 17 for the Spartans and Jaycee Hillsman added 10.

The real difference in the game came off turnovers as the San José State forced 14 and turned them into 23 points, while New Mexico was only able to come up with 11 points off of the Spartan’s 11 turnovers.

“We could walk it up the floor, but that’s not what we do,” said Lobos coach Craig Neal. “I think guys are careless with the ball. I think we do some things that we shouldn’t do with the ball and we’re going to have to continue to work on it. We can’t turn the ball over like that.”

BIG PICTURE: February has been a brutal month for New Mexico, dropping to 10-15 over the last three seasons. The loss leaves the Lobos mired in the middle of the conference race and struggling to be among the top-four teams that receive an opening-round bye.

“It’s just very, very discouraging because we were making some great strides and I just didn’t have my team ready to play tonight,” Neal said.

The Spartans move up a notch ahead of UNLV and Air Force in the win column.

The win capped an emotional week for Wojcik, whose father, Fred Wojcik, died Thursday and the coach flew to Wheeling, W.V. to be with family before meeting the team here for the game.

“They texted me throughout the week and let me know I was in their prayers — my family is in their prayers,” he said. “I’ve got a great group of kids.”

INJURIES: New Mexico played its second game without injured power forward Tim Williams, who is out with a leg injury, as well as small forward Dane Kuiper, who is in the concussion protocol.

“He’s one of the top players in the league, 17 points out of their lineup, 7-8 boards out of their lineup,” Wojcik said of Williams. His absence “is big.”

UP NEXT: New Mexico goes to Air Force on Wednesday. It’s the teams’ only meeting of the season and will mark the Lobos’ third straight game against a team tied for the fewest wins in conference.

San José State is home Tuesday against San Diego State. The Spartans lost the first game against the Aztecs 76-61.