ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Bring on nationally ranked Utah, its
18-game win streak and lottery pick nominee Andrew Bogut.
That's the message echoing from The Pit after New Mexico posted
an imposing 91-72 win over Brigham Young Saturday night.
"We're ready said Lobo center David Chiotti. "We're a
confident team and they've (Utes) have to come into The Pit and get
No. 14 Utah, which clinched the Mountain West Conference regular
season title earlier in the day with a 65-56 win at Air Force,
plays the Lobos here Monday night.
While New Mexico might be catching a Utah team ready to relax a
bit after clinching the league title, there's no doubt the Lobos
(19-6, 6-4 MWC) appear to be peaking for a late season run.
They've won five of their last six and are 16-1 at home. Against
outmanned and injury-riddled BYU, Danny Granger scored 20 points,
Troy DeVries hit his first five 3-pointers and the Lobos put the
game away by hitting 19 of 25 (76 percent) shots in the first half.
"It wouldn't have mattered who played here tonight, they were
going to lose" said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. "I thought they
were just absolutely unbelievable offensively. They hit every big
shot with hands contesting."
New Mexico moved into a second place tie with Air Force in the
conference while the Cougars (9-17, 3-8), lost for the seventh time
in the last nine games.
Cleveland also predicted the Lobos, who have played one of the
weaker Division I schedules in the country this season, still face
tough odds in trying to earn an NCAA tournament at-large bid if
they don't win the conference tournament.
"They're playing like we were last year and we had our backs to
the wall and had to win nine in a row to get in the tournament,"
Cleveland said. "They're going to have to do the same thing."
BYU struggled at both ends of the floor and never threatened
after falling behind 7-0 as Granger hit a 3-pointer, added a layup
and David Chiotti scored inside.
It was a complete turnaround from BYU's 68-53 win in Provo last
month. Granger was injured and didn't play in that game and Chiotti
played only 11 minutes because of a hip injury.
"We're a little bit undermanned, like they were at our place,"
Cleveland said. "We're not good enough ... this year, to compete
with people who play like that."
The Cougars were without sophomores Garner Meads and Keena
Young. Meads has missed the last four games with a bad ankle and
Young broke his right hand in practice earlier in the week.
Led by DeVries on the perimeter the inside by the trio of
Granger, David Chiotti and Alfred Neale, New Mexico hit 8 of its
first 9 shots.
"I just took advantage of their big, slow-footed post," said
Chiotti of his matchup with BYU center Derek Dawes. Chiotti
finished with 16 points off a season-high 13 shots.
It was a laughter that lent itself to a pair of strange plays
involving Chiotti and Granger. Chiotti had one of his dunks go
three-fourths of the way down the net and then bounce back out and
Granger was assessed a technical late in the second half for
slapping the backboard after a dunk.
"I was running down the floor. I thought it went in," Chiotti
said of his almost field goal. "But it wasn't like Danny's little
girlie dunk. I'd rather miss it trying to dunk it hard than do a
weak dunk and then slap the glass to make up for the weak dunk."
DeVries, who has much more trouble at the free throw line than
from behind the arc, hit back-to-back 3s -- his second from about 26
feet -- that pushed the Lobos' lead to 30-18 with 8:34 left in the
first half. DeVries, an enigma all season at the foul line, early
in the game airballed another free throw, at least his sixth such
miss this season.
DeVries finished with 15 points and led a torrid shooting Lobo
offense that through the first 24 minutes hit 10 of 12 3s and 13 of
19 in the game.
In the paint, Chiotti, Granger and Neale, who scored 15 points,
combined to hit 13 of 18 first half shots.
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