ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) One or even two games might be a seen as a fluke, but for a third-straight outing, New Mexico unleashed a smothering defensive effort that has limited its opponents to under 50 points.
Louisiana-Monroe was the latest victim of the Lobos’ voracious appetite for defense in New Mexico’s 54-46 victory Saturday night.
”New Mexico is very good defensively,” Warhawks coach Keith Richard said. ”They’re big, long and physical. They protect their basket very, very well. All those things we knew coming in.”
But that knowledge went for naught as the Lobos (6-3) stifled Louisiana-Monroe, holding it to 29 percent shooting overall and less than 16 percent on 3-pointers.
”We’ve done a really good job of doing what we want to defensively,” New Mexico Craig Neal said.
The Lobos didn’t exactly light it up offensively, but Deshawn Delaney shook off a slow start to finish with 15 points – giving him 54 over his last three games. He was the only player for either team in double figures. Nick Coppola had nine to lead the Warhawks (4-4).
Although New Mexico struggled to hit it shots as well, it pounded the glass, finishing with 20 offensive boards among its 45 rebounds.
”If we can continue to rebound like that, continue to get 20 offensive rebounds, we’ll be a tough team to beat,” Neal said. But ”there’s a reason for that many rebounds, when you miss as many shots as we did.
And when you go 4 for 20 (on 3-pointers), there’s going to be a lot of long rebounds that we can chase down.”
The boards were a critical part of the game, Richard said.
”They’re offensive rebounding obviously was an issue for us,” he said.
”I told Craig after the game, if they rebound like that, night in and night out, that’s going to win them some games when they don’t have the offense.”
It was the defense, however, that proved to be the difference, Richard said.
”It’s size and scheme,” he said. ”They are protecting the basket. They are keeping the ball in front of themselves. There’s not a lot of cracks and creases to get in there. And then when you do get in there, they can block some shots. And their guards can block shots as well.
It’s the right scheme to play for that group. I don’t think they’re super quick but they can cover from the 3-point line pretty well.”
Still, New Mexico trailed for much of the first half before Hugh Greenwood hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a Lobos’ 14-3 run to close the half, putting them up 26-19 at the break.
Louisiana-Monroe scored the first four points of the second half, but the Lobos responded with a 13-2 run sparked by six points from Delaney and five from Xavier Adams to go up 39-25.
After falling behind 48-31 with 8:12 left, the Warhawks scored 11 straight to pull within 48-42. Delaney ended the Lobos’ five-minute scoring drought with a pull-up 14-footer, and the Lobos were able to push the lead back out thereafter.
New Mexico: Greenwood, the senior point guard, continued to wear out the court. He has logged at least 33 minutes every game this season.
Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks have never beaten a Mountain West team.
New Mexico plays host to Central Arkansas on Wednesday night.
Louisiana-Monroe is at home against Central Baptist on Tuesday night.
New Mexico reserve guard Sam Logwood was injured early in the second half. After a trip to the trainer’s room, he returned to the bench with his left arm in a sling. He finished with five points.