Utah State basketball: Aggies can't maintain 2nd-half lead vs. Lobos

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 11:20 p.m. MST

Utah State's Viko Noma'aea, top, and New Mexico's Hugh Greenwood scramble for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 in Albuquerque, N.M. New Mexico won 67-58. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz)

Craig Fritz, AP

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No. 25 New Mexico had four players in double figures to beat Utah State 67-58 in the Pit on Tuesday.

"We played 30 minutes of pretty good basketball," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "We played hard, came in and gave it a awfully good effort, but the bottom line is we didn't make shots down the stretch and they did."

Utah State led by as much as eight in the game and by one at the half, but helped by guard Cullen Neal's nine second-half points, pulled away late in the game to seal the victory.

Cullen Neal, son of New Mexico head coach Craig Neal, scored 12 points off the bench, shooting 3-of-4 from the 3-point line.

"I thought Cullen Neal was huge for them, the way he sparked them and made some deep threes," Morrill said. "That was the difference in the game, that little stretch."

Utah State (15-13, 5-11 MW) gave the Lobos a game of it, hitting 8-of-18 shots from range, but couldn't match New Mexico's play at the block. USU center Jarred Shaw and forward Kyle Davis combined for 15 points and 10 rebounds, while New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow had 14 points and 11 rebounds by himself.

"They made it really hard during that stretch where we couldn't score," Morrill said. "We got the ball inside quite a bit, just came up empty."

Lobo center Alex Kirk added another 13 points and 12 rebounds to go along with five assists and four blocked shots.

New Mexico went on a 9-0 run midway through the second half to even the game, then a 10-2 run late to build a 10-point gap with three minutes left.

"We started the second half really good offensively, really good defensively," Aggie senior guard Preston Medlin said. "We kind of hit a stretch there where we couldn't make a shot."

Medlin had a game-high 19 points on 80 percent 3-point shooting.

"It was nice to see him look like himself," Morrill said. "He's had three tough games in a row, but he was making shots and getting fired up."

The Aggies have now lost nine of their last 12. Because of an Air Force win over Wyoming on Tuesday, Utah State has dropped to the No. 10 spot — second-to-last — in the Mountain West Conference.

New Mexico pulled to 22-5 on the season, 13-2 in conference play and are fighting with No. 13 San Diego State for the top-seed in the Mountain West tournament in March.

The Aggies will face last-place San Jose State on the road Saturday at 6 p.m. MST.

"There's not a lot of comfort in moral victories," Morrill said. "We got beat. We got beat by a very good team."

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