Published January 19, 2012
"The start was great," Alford said. "It was 10 or 12 to nothing and there was a lot of energy."
That opening 10-0 run, however, was quickly forgotten when San Diego State matched it with a 12-2 surge, then added a 15-0 run in the second half that pushed the Aztecs to a 75-70 victory Wednesday night.
"Then we got complacent," Alford said about the Lobos' effort. "I thought we got softer as the game got going instead of tougher as the game got going and that was the frustrating part."
New Mexico (15-3, 1-1 Mountain West) couldn't hold off Xavier Thames, who scored 22 points for the Aztecs (16-2, 2-0).
"It was a tough game for us," Alford said. "I give San Diego State a lot of credit. They are a very good basketball team."
Thames knew what the Aztecs had to do get back in the Mountain West game — and quiet the rocking crowd.
"We just had to stick together," Thames said.
The Aztecs won their ninth straight game and ended New Mexico's winning streak at 13 games.
Thames provided the spark in his third game back after a knee injury.
"He played like Xavier Thames before he got hurt," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said about the Washington State transfer who combined to go 2 for 13 with nearly as many turnovers as points in the first two games back.
This time, he was 7 for 11 with four assists and just one turnover.
Thames had help from Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin, who each scored 12 points.
The Lobos got 20 points off the bench from Phillip McDonald, who went 6 for 9 on 3-pointers. But his teammates combined to go 7 of 22 from behind the arc.
Tapley's 3-pointer with 2:41 left in the first half gave San Diego State its first lead at 28-27. The Aztecs took control midway through the second half behind a 15-0 run, turning a 48-44 deficit into a 59-48 advantage.
"We always talk about how we have to have three 8-0 or more runs per game and none for our opponents," Fisher said. "We got it to 8-0, 10-0, and they kept talking, 'Don't let up. Don't give up the easy basket.' (New Mexico) did miss some easy shots in that stretch and we took advantage."
The run included two 3-pointers from Franklin and one from LaBradford Franklin. San Diego State pushed the advantage to 64-51, before the Lobos tried to rally late behind McDonald's late 3-pointers.
New Mexico controlled the glass, holding a 42-34 edge, including 21-10 on the offensive end, but it could only turn that into 23 second-chance points.
"One thing that works against us is our inability to rebound the ball," Fisher said. "We gave up 40 rebounds and you can't do that."
That wasn't enough to overcome San Diego State's better shooting effort from the field, where it went 27 for 56.
"We're a good team," Fisher said. "We have to do it a different way. We're not going to overpower you. But we're going to fight all the way. We're going to make good decisions. We're going to shoot the ball and take care of the ball."
It didn't help New Mexico's cause that leading scorer Tony Snell, didn't score until hitting a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left. He was 1 for 6 from the field, with all the attempts coming on 3-pointers.