Maybe it was the unusual midnight tip-time, opening game jitters or Davidson’s stingy, overplay defense. Whatever the cause, neither Tony Snell nor Kendall Williams had their outside shots falling in the second game of Tuesday’s Tip-Off Marathon.
Fortunately for the Lobos, the dynamic backcourt partners had their free throw strokes in midseason form instead.
Snell and Williams combined to hit 22 of 24 free throws in the overnight mid-major clash, as New Mexico battled from 14-down in the second half to surge past Davidson, 86-81, at University Arena. The Lobos as a team knocked down 38 free throws—26 in the second half—to overcome a dismal outside shooting performance. New Mexico made just four of the team’s 17 attempted 3-point shots, and the combination of Snell and Williams managed to hit just two of their 10 tries.
The Lobos lived at the line in the second period thanks largely to a lopsided advantage on the boards. New Mexico parlayed a 27-7 second-half rebounding edge into a 55-point scoring outburst.
Reserve big man Alex Kirk was a big reason why. The sophomore pivot chipped in 14 points (eight coming in the final 12 minutes) and seven rebounds, helping the Lobos to muscle their way back into the game.
Davidson jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead to start the game and rode a 14-point advantage early in the second half. But as the tenor of the game began shifting inside, the Wildcats lost their edge.
De’Mon Brooks showed why he’s poised to run away with the SoCon Player of the Year award. The junior forward finished with a team-high 22 points on 50-percent shooting from the floor, but didn’t receive help from key supporting players.
Nick Cochran was held scoreless in 20 minutes of action and played most of the game in foul trouble while Jake Cohen hit just 2 of his 12 field goal attempts. The two seniors combined for nine points on 4 of 16 shooting from the floor.
Davidson is not going to knock off top-tier competition with that formula, even if it gets excellent bench production like it did tonight. Reserves Clint Mann and Tyler Kalinoski teamed up for 24 points on 9 of 17 shooting in the losing effort.
New Mexico is the third of a top-heavy triumvirate of teams atop the Mountain West Conference pecking order, joining preseason league favorites UNLV and San Diego State. Davison, meanwhile, is the prohibitive favorite to win the Southern Conference.
This won’t be the last time you hear from these two alpha mid-majors.