UNM men defensive in 71-54 win over TCU

Kendall Williams & Tony Snell (21) lead UNM to win

Starting guards Kendall Williams and Tony Snell scored 18 and 14 points and the Lobo men collectively showed a renewed focus on defense in avoiding a let down Saturday afternoon defeating visiting Texas Christian 71-54 before 15,212 in The Pit. UNM trailed midway through the first half but managed a pair of runs in the game to first secure the lead and then secure the victory.

"Tony Snell had a very good game offensively which was a huge key," said head coach Steve Alford. "I thought the key to the game was Kendall Williams. I thought the job he did on Hank Thorns made it really difficult for him. Thorns is a terrific player and (Kendall) kept him off-balanced most of the night. Kendall had that assignment most of the night. That is probably as good defensively that Kendall has been since he has been here and that has been a good growth to see."

TCU (12-8, 2-3 MWC) finished with only one starter in double figures, guard J.R. Cadot scored 15 while Thorns shot just 3-of-7 for the game to score 8 points as TCU shot just 17-of-42 (40.5%) from the field and 8-of-19 (42.1%) from the three-point line.

"I think the key word is aggressiveness," said Williams. "I've taken a more active role on both ends of the floor. I got into a better rhythm on defense and they say that defense leads to offense so it's easy to get confidence that way. I'm trying to be balanced and lead a good team that already has a lot of talent."

New Mexico (17-4, 3-2) had a particularly good game in the paint, pulling down 24 defensive rebounds while limiting the Horned Frogs to three offensive rebounds while out-scoring TCU 32-16 in the lane and 12-0 on second-chance points.

Drew Gordon led all players with 11 rebounds while scoring 7 points while Jamal Fenton came off the bench to score nine points. Amric Fields led TCU with 16 points off the bench.

 "Overall, it was a terrific win and we needed these two," said Alford. "We have made some improvements this week and that is a very quick turn around. We have a busy week next week."

The two teams traded shots early on before TCU managed a short burst to take a 16-13 lead as the Lobos went 0-4 from the three-point line over the first five minutes. New Mexico responded with an 8-2 run keyed by consecutive scores by senior Phillip McDonald, who finished with nine points with 4-of-9 shooting, to take a 27-18 lead with just under five minutes left.

New Mexico absorbed a run from the Horned Toads and took a 33-26 lead into halftime. The Lobos then opened the second half with a 12-2 run to take a 45-28 lead with 15:54 left in the second half.

TCU trimmed the lead to 51-45 with nine minutes left in the game but soon faded as UNM imposed its will to push the lead back to 17 points with just under two minutes left in the game.

"We weren't going to out-run and jump this team," said Alford. "They are long and athletic. They have good size and we had to get into them and block them out. I have to look at the tape but from what we viewed live and statistically, it looked like we did a good job blocking out."

Alford said his team did "a great job on rebounds" against TCU.

"We did a great job on rebounds," said Alford. "We have been a good rebounding team all year. To hold somebody at three offensive rebounds is really good. Our board play has been getting better and better."

McDonald said Wednesday's game at Air Force will be a big game for the Lobos, who are now just one game out of first place with San Diego State's 77-60 loss at Colorado State.

"These next to games are really important now that San Diego State just dropped one against CSU, and that put us in the hunt again," McDonald said. "We were one game behind from first place and if we can get this next two in the win column we'll be in good shape."

McDonald said the teams' current 13-day stretch and the challenge from the coaching staff are beginning to pay off the UNM.

"Practices and the coaches have been very intense these past few days, every time Coach Alford steps on the court he is giving it his all so we have to do the same thing," said McDonald. "We're trying to build toughness and just keep at it."

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