ANAHEIM, Calif. – Seven exasperating minutes proved insurmountable for Washington State in its second game at the 76 Classic basketball tournament on Friday night.
As a result, New Mexico took early and firm control to earn a 72-62 victory at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Faisal Aden made 10 of 16 shots to finish with a season-high 25 points, Brock Motum added 10 points and eight rebounds, and Reggie Moore tied a season best with eight assists. But turnovers and poor shooting doomed WSU (2-3) for the second consecutive game.
The Cougars made only four points on free throws in a span of 7 minutes early in the game and missed 18 of 27 shots in the first half. WSU also committed 13 turnovers during the half that the Lobos (3-2) turned into 15 points.
“I would’ve hoped that we were a little further along,” said Cougars coach Ken Bone, who added that the absence of returning forward Abe Lodwick is taking a toll. Lodwick has yet to play after fracturing his left foot.
“It puts a little bit of a wrench in our rotation and in how we play,” Bone said. “We’ve tried different guys in that spot and there are times when we are just not as fluid offensively as we were with him in the lineup.
“We were pretty comfortable with a certain style with him so it’s been difficult.”
Increasing that difficulty against New Mexico was Aden’s early absence. Bone benched him for 11 minutes of the first half. Aden returned to the floor with 6:34 remaining before halftime.
“We know what he can do,” Bone said. “We wanted to have a good start and I didn’t think he was starting out the way we wanted him to.”
With Aden on the bench, New Mexico began its blitz.
A 10-0 spree gave the Lobos a 13-2 lead after 3:51 expired. New Mexico scored eight of those points after forcing turnovers on four successive possessions. Kendall Williams led the surge with five points and three rebounds.
Motum made four foul shots in a 43-second span to narrow the deficit to 13-6. But an 8-0 spurt, with five more points resulting from turnovers, extended the Lobos’ advantage to 21-6 with 13:13 remaining in the first half.
New Mexico built a 17-point lead with 7:06 left in the half.
Nevertheless, WSU drew within seven points twice in the second half, the last time when the Lobos held a 64-57 lead with 2:09 to play. But New Mexico made eight free throws without a miss in the final 1:49 to secure the victory.
The Cougars shot 56.5 percent from the field in the second half. Bone attributed the recovery to improved ball-handling and defense.
“I thought our guys settled down and did a good job sharing the ball, and we did a better job of knowing where their shooters were,” Bone said. “They still hit some 3-point shots, but I thought a couple of them were tough shots.”
New Mexico’s Tony Snell scored a career-best 21 points, making 8 of 12 field-goal attempts.