San Jose, CA – The Lobos of New Mexico (12-3) entered Saturday’s game against San Jose State (6-10) on the heals of a tight 72-69 overtime victory in Wyoming. They took on the Spartans in the hopes of extending their winning streak to five. A close one throughout, the game would be decided in the final minute as the Lobos would rely on the stellar finish of senior guard, Kendall Williams.
The first half seemed to be dominated by the inside play of 7’0″ junior center Alex Kirk (9 points, 7 rebounds, 4-of-11 shooting on the night) and senior forward Cameron Bairstow (15 points, 5 rebounds, 6-of-14 shooting on the night). However, New Mexico’s inability to convert at the line (1-of-4 at the half) or from behind the arc (1-of-10 at the half) kept the struggling Spartans in the game.
The second half would be a battle of the guards. Center Alex Kirk would start the second half with three quick fouls and the Lobos had frustrating offensive possession after frustrating offensive due to a swarming Spartan post defense. Enter: the guards.
At only 6-foot-3, Spartan freshman Isaac Thornton energized his team with six first-half rebounds in only six minutes. As the second half began, he continued his hustle-play assault, creating opportunities for his team through timely defensive rotations, as well as aggressive penetration offensively. He would finish with a game-high 11 rebounds, three second-half assists and two second-half steals.
While Thornton did the dirty work, 6’7″ junior forward Jaleel Williams shouldered most of the offensive load for the Spartans. Williams shot an impressive 9-of-15, 6-of-10 from behind the arc, adding eight rebounds and three assists. With 1:30 remaining and the Spartans trailing by three points, Williams would trust his teammate, freshman guard Rashad Muhammad to hit a deep three to tie up the ball game. Muhammad finished with 16.
Down the stretch, New Mexico senior guard Kendall Williams proved to be too much. With 16 second-half points, including ten straight points for the Lobos in the final three minutes (5-of-6 from the free throw line in this stretch), he was able to secure a road victory for the New Mexico. He also turned in seven assists, six rebounds and three steals on the night.
Junior guards Deshawn Delaney (12 points) and Hugh Greenwood (seven rebounds, five assists) also contributed with solid performances for New Mexico.
Overall, this game was entertaining, featuring high and low points by both teams. The second half showed us the potential that players like Kendall and Jaleel Williams have, but the overall talent pool from this match-up will most likely not exceed the NBA Development League or mid-high European professional player levels.
Nick Camilleri is a Correspondent and Scout for NetScouts Basketball.