ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico's Alfred Neale couldn't miss
early on Monday night and Air Force couldn't get a shot off.
That combination set the tempo for New Mexico's 63-52 win over
Neale, the Lobos' sixth man most of the season, scored 18 points
and Danny Granger got his 10th double-double of the season with 17
points and 14 rebounds in the win.
Air Force, unable to handle New Mexico's defensive quickness,
failed to get off a shot with its first two possession before the
35-second shot clock expired.
At the other end, Neale was scoring nine of New Mexico's first
11 points. He opened the game with a reverse layup, added a slam
dunk, a 3-pointer and an offensive rebound basket as the Lobos took
an 11-0 lead with 13:56 left in the first half.
"You can't start slow in a place like this," said Air Force
coach Chris Mooney.
Neale hit six of his first seven shots and 8 of 11 in the game.
New Mexico (18-6, 5-4 Mountain West) ended a four-game losing
streak to the Falcons and did it mostly with defense. Air Force
(15-9, 6-3 MWC) got its first points of the game on a 3-pointer by
Matt McGraw with 13:56 left in the first half.
McGraw, who was 5-for-6 on 3s, led the Falcons with 17 points.
Dan Nwaelele added 12, but Air Force hit just 19 of 53 shots. The
Falcons stayed close by hitting 10 3s.
After the sluggish start, the Falcons steadily chipped away at
the Lobos' early lead and got their only tie of the game after New
Mexico reserve center Sean Phaler was called for a flagrant foul
with 59 seconds left in the first half.
Air Force center Nick Welch got a steal and a layup to get the
Falcons within 23-22. As Welch tried to get back up the court,
Phaler pushed him into the stands. Welch hit one of the two free
throws off the technical, but New Mexico went ahead on a layup by
David Chiotti just ahead of the first half buzzer.
"We showed a lot of good effort and courage to get the tie,"
The Falcons' shooting troubles resurfaced in the second half, as
Air Force scored just four points -- baskets by Nwaelele and McGraw
-- in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
"So long as we stopped what they run, we were going to let the
offense flow," Neale said.
New Mexico parlayed the Air Force scoring drought into a 41-27
lead with 9:36 left. But the Falcons mounted one last run, cutting
it to 48-41 on a 3-pointer by McGraw with 4:46 left. That rally
ended as New Mexico countered with a layup by Chiotti and a slam
dunk by Neale.
"I missed most of my shots, but I got to the free throw line,"
said Granger, who hit 9 of 11 free throws. "And as long as we kept
our defensive principles, we kept our advantage."
But it was Neale, who now has scored in double figures in his
last six games, who gave the Falcons fits. He played 36 minutes,
had two assists, no turnovers and was a step ahead of his defender
"He makes tough shots," said Mooney. "A couple of times we're
right there in his face and he still made shots."