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Air Force 64, New Mexico 62

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Air Force is quickly proving
that conventional thinking is overrated.

Nick Welch scored 19 points and Air Force won its 22nd straight
home game, beating New Mexico 64-62 Saturday despite grabbing just
nine rebounds and allowing the Lobos to shoot nearly 70 percent.

"A lot of programs talk about rebounds and defensive shooting
percentage," Air Force coach Chris Mooney said. "Thank God we
don't."

Air Force (11-6, 2-0 Mountain West) couldn't stop the Lobos from
hitting shots and had trouble getting inside for rebounds, making
up for it by harassing the Lobos into 23 turnovers -- 16 on steals --
that led to 31 points.

New Mexico (14-3, 1-1) shot a staggering 69 percent, had just
three players -- Troy DeVries, Mark Walters and Alfred Neale -- miss
shots, and had a 28-9 rebounding advantage. It still wasn't enough
to prevent the Lobos' 20th straight conference road loss.

David Chiotti led New Mexico with 17 points and Neale added 15.

"I'm not disgruntled with our guys, other than the turnovers,"
New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay said. "We had a ton."

Even with the mistakes, New Mexico still had a chance at the
end.

The Lobos got within three on DeVries' layup two minutes into
the second half, then went more than six minutes without a field
goal as Air Force pushed the lead to 45-36. New Mexico got close
again, fell behind by 12, then made a late 13-2 run, taking a 58-57
lead on Neale's 3-pointer with 46 seconds left.

Air Force took the lead right back with 29 seconds left, when
Welch powered inside for a three-point play that made it 60-58.

New Mexico never got a chance to get it back.

Matt McCraw snared another sloppy crosscourt pass by the Lobos
and hit two free throws with 21 seconds left to put the Falcons up
four, then Welch hit two free throws after Chiotti scored at the
other end to seal Air Force's first four-game winning streak
against New Mexico since 1957-62.

"We scrapped and clawed to get back in the game," McKay said.

New Mexico played without top scorer and rebounder Danny
Granger, who had surgery Monday to repair torn cartilage in his
left knee.

The Lobos didn't seem to miss him much in the first half.

New Mexico set a torrid pace at the start, scoring from the
post, the perimeter, everywhere. By the time they were done, the
Lobos had hit 13-of-16 shots (81 percent) and had an 11-1
rebounding advantage.

It still wasn't good enough to give them the halftime lead.

Air Force took a different tact, working the ball around the
perimeter and out of the high post, and was pretty effective, too.

The Falcons shot 13-of-21 in the first half, including Tim
Anderson's four-point play with seven minutes left, and led by as
much as 12. It wasn't quite as good as New Mexico's start, but Air
Force made up for it with scrappy defense, scoring 20 points off 13
turnovers for a 36-31 halftime lead.

"I could not believe the halftime stats. I couldn't believe we
were winning," Mooney said.

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