Fresno, CA – Cameron Bairstow made a late go-ahead basket and No. 19 New Mexico scored the game's final nine points to escape Save Mart Center with a 54-48 victory over the upset-minded Fresno State Bulldogs.
Kendall Williams netted 13 points while Tony Snell and Alex Kirk each scored 10 for the Lobos (21-4, 8-2 MWC), who avoided losing back-to-back games after falling at UNLV on Saturday.
The matchup between the first and last place teams in the Mountain West Conference was surprisingly tight, as Fresno State (8-15, 2-8) held an 11- point halftime lead before being limited to 27 percent shooting from the field after the break.
"In this league you have to play for 40 minutes, you can't play for 38 or leave three extra minutes out there without finishing it out," Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry said. "At the end of the day you have to make shots."
Kevin Olekaibe hit three of the Bulldogs' nine 3-pointers en route to a team- high 11 points, while Kevin Foster added 10 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.
The Lobos, who won the first meeting by 27 points, were behind, 31-20, at intermission, but chipped away at their deficit before pulling ahead, 41-40, on a dunk by Williams with 11:06 to play.
Marvelle Harris responded with a go-ahead bucket, and Aaron Anderson put in a 3-pointer for a 45-41 advantage at the midway point.
After a Hugh Greenwood jumper made it a two-point game, both teams went scoreless until two Williams free throws tied things with 4:13 remaining.
An Olekaibe triple broke the tie, but two inside buckets by Bairstow put New Mexico in front, 49-48, coming down the stretch.
Greenwood was fouled with under a minute remaining and made the first free throw before missing the second. The rebound was knocked out of bounds by Fresno State with 52 seconds showing.
Snell buried a critical jumper with 20 seconds to play, and Foster missed from behind the arc to end the Bulldogs' upset bid.
New Mexico started strong and led 16-9 following a Demetrius Walker jumper, then went the final 8:12 of the opening half without making a field goal.
Fresno State's subsequent 14-0 run, capped by Olekaibe's 3-pointer, gave the Bulldogs a 23-16 lead with just under four minutes left. After Kirk made two free throws, Foster and Olekaibe each hit from long range for a 29-18 cushion.
Each team exchanged free throws in the final minute, and Greenwood finally ended the Lobos' field goal drought with a bucket 1:15 into the second half. Kirk followed with a layup and Snell added a 3-pointer to pull within 31-27, and the visitors were back in striking distance.
New Mexico had lost six of seven road meetings vs. New Mexico ... The Lobos shot 48 percent in the second half after a 26 percent effort in the first ... Fresno State's last win over a ranked opponent came against No. 14 Oklahoma State on Feb. 10, 2002.