Lobos survive 49ers, advance in NCAA

Sophomore guard Kendall Williams kept close watch on Long Beach State ace Casper Ware and scored 16 while senior Drew Gordon scored 18 points to lead 5-seed New Mexico to a hard fought 75-68 victory over the 12-seeded 49ers in Thursday's second round game in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Portland, Ore. UNM moves on to face 4-seed Louisville in the third round on Saturday.

The 12-5 upset that was popular for national writers to buzz about Wednesday night ultimately failed to materialize Thursday afternoon .

Sophomore guard Kendall Williams scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and continually frustrated Long Beach State star Casper Ware on defense to help fifth-seeded New Mexico move forward with a hard-fought 75-68 victory Thursday in the second round of the NCAA Men's basketball Tournament of the NCAA Tournament at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

"We had a pretty good game plan for Cas," said Williams. "He's a great scorer, great player.  But we have some athletic guys and we were able to drag out the screens a little bit. A little bit of it was just luck, him missing some shots down the stretch."

The Lobos (28-6) move on to Saturday afternoon's third round match up against fourth-seeded Louisville. The Cardinals defeated Davidson 69-62 in the first game in rain-soaked Portland on Thursday morning.

"It's going to be fun," said freshman point guard Greenwood said. "Back to the drawing board. It's going to be a tough one."

Williams was also able to make his presence known on offense in the second half, making many of the crucial offensive plays UNM needed in the win.

"I just wanted to take better shots and create opportunities," said Williams. "In the first half I was a little passive, this being my first tournament.  Our coaches told us to get into the lane and penetrate and make plays," Williams said. "I saw a few openings, a few opportunities and was able to make some pretty big shots down the stretch."

The main story line of the game was how the Lobos would deal with Ware. Williams' length and speed obviously bothered Ware the entire afternoon. Ware, the Big West player of the year, was continually frustrated by Williams and at one point went over 24 minutes without hitting a basket.

"I hit them before. They just didn't go in tonight," Ware said. "It's not like I've never hit them before. I hit plenty of those shots. Today they wouldn't give me a roll. When we went up by two, they just made more plays than we did."

Ware ended the game with 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting or Long Beach St., which ended the season at 25-9.

The Lobo's defense caused the 49er's fits all afternoon forcing their normally excellent ball handlers to cough it up for 15 turnovers. UNM did not help itself however, turning the ball over 14 times themselves – mostly in the first half and almost exclusively from the free throw line. The junior transfer would finish 6-of-8 from the charity stripe.

Senior forward Drew Gordon poured in 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Lobos – his 18th double-double of his college career - while facing a steady stream of double teams from the LBSU defense. With most of the 49ers' defensive efforts focused on Gordon, Williams came up with key shots late in the second half to frustrate Long Beach State.

While the Lobos were cold from 3-point range for the game, hitting only 7-of-21 from beyond the arc, they shot 50 percent (25-of-50) from the field and 75 percent from the foul line (18-of-24) keeping the 49ers at bay as LBSU made a run in the last seconds.

UNM showcased a well-rounded offense as Greenwood added 12 points and junior Demetrius Walker contributed 11 points from off the bench, mostly in the first half.

Guard James Ennis and forward T.J Robinson added 13 and 12 points respectively for the 49ers, who finished with 28-of-65 (43.1%) shooting, hitting 8-of-14 (75%) from the free throw line but going just 4-of-16 (25%) on three-pointers – one of the keys to the game.

The game was tight from the get go. LBSU took an early 8-2 lead but UNM retaliated and took an 11-10 lead on a Gordon jumper just under the 12 minute mark. The ‘Niners would take the lead midway through the half but the Lobos fought back to tie the game at 27-27 on a pair of Walker free throws.

New Mexico finished the half on a 6-2 run to take a 33-29 lead into halftime

In the second half, the two teams battled back and forth but UNM eventually made a run capped by a Phillip McDonald trey and a lay-in by Gordon to give the Lobos its biggest lead of the game, 51-43 with 11:57 left in the game.

But Long Beach St. would not go away, rallying to take back the lead on a fast break dunk by Ennis to give the 49ers a 62-21 lead at the 4;38 mark. But Williams answered with a trey on the next possession to take the lead back and Gordon pushed the lead further after a Ware missed free throw to give UNM a 64-61 bulge and LBSU would never gain the lead again in the game.

Long Beach St. was able to out-rebound the Lobos 36-31, including a 16-7 advantage on offensive rebounds, gaining an advantage on second-chance points – at a tally of15-8 in favor of the 49ers.

But New Mexico's bench, one of the team's biggest strengths down the stretch  in the regular season as well as in the Mountain West Tournament, outperformed the LBSU reserves 26-15.

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