The battle between UNM and BYU was much like a banana split (emphasis on the “split”), with the “Cherry” on top. New Mexico edged BYU at the Pit on Wednesday night, and when I say “edged,” I mean edged. Rarely are box scores so similar, but the matchup of top Mountain West teams was all that it was played out to be.
The “cherry-coated” Steve Alford watched junior guard Dairese Gary battle with not only one of best in the west, but one of the best point guards on the nation. The only reason Gary may not be first-team all MWC this year is because of Jimmer Fredette. The two went back-and-forth in the Pit and both had outstanding games. Gary led New Mexico with 25 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists, while Fredette had 27 points, 2 rebounds and 7 assists.
Here is a look at some of the similarities in the box score:
The big difference in the game was on the free-throw line. New Mexico managed to get to the line more often than BYU, and despite shooting much worse, won because of it. The Lobos could have easily won the game by 10 points had they not shot 63.6% from the foul line. BYU shot 80% from the charity stripe, but playing more of a perimeter game, didn’t draw as much contact. Gary, once again, came through for the Lobos knocking down 12 of his 17 free-throws, many of which came in the final minutes.
Darington Hobson has seen his point total decline over the past couple of games, but not at the expense of his team. Hobson was 1-11 from the field against the Cougars and scored only 5 points in the game, but as usual, Darington cleared the glass with 14 rebounds.
New Mexico is now 4-0 against ranked opponents on the year, and will likely play one more as they must travel to Provo later in the year. This isn’t a bad loss for the Cougars, as they are still atop the conference and saw their already high RPI go up a few points. New Mexico also had a pretty good RPI, which turned into a great RPI, good for 11th best in the nation. The Lobos will have other chances to raise that RPI as both SDSU and UNLV are in the top 50.
At 5-1, BYU leads the conference with New Mexico and UNLV right behind at 5-2. BYU must still travel to Las Vegas, and they get the Lobos at home with no room for error. New Mexico must also travel to Vegas, meaning that the conference championship is not decided yet. Not by a long shot.