Phillip McDonald led four New Mexico players in double figures with 26 points and the Lobos landed the first blow early, going with both Drew Gordon (15 points, 16 rebounds) and A.J. Hardeman (eight rebounds) in the starting lineup in hopes of taking advantage of BYU's lack of size.
The idea for Dave Rose's team without Davies in the lineup is to speed up the pace, but if you can't rebound it's tough to spark those scoring opportunities. Add in the Cougars shooting 5-for-26 from deep (Jimmer Fredette made just one of nine despite scoring a game-high 33) and the end result is a game that heads in the wrong direction for BYU.
"I thought a big key to the win was we did a good job understanding what we had to do," said New Mexico head coach Steve Alford. "We beat them on the boards." (quote courtesy of BYU Athletics)
The rebounding advantage allowed the Lobos to navigate 18 turnovers, with BYU scoring just 12 points off of those miscues. BYU never led and with just two players in double figures (Fredette and Jackson Emery) it was quite apparent that the Cougars need more time to get adjusted to life without Davies. But that's the key; similar to Purdue losing Robbie Hummel late last season (the Boilermakers did have a little more time to get used to playing without Hummel) there isn't much time left for BYU to figure things out.
Running basketball begins with defense and rebounding, and if BYU struggles in those two areas (UNM shot 46.6% from the field) it's going to be tough to play faster. But there's still one more regular season game to be played (Wyoming) followed by the Mountain West Tournament, and with players such as Emery, Fredette and Charles Abouo BYU has the talent and experience needed to figure things out. But can they do it at a level that will ensure NCAA Tournament success? That remains to be seen, but at the least give them the chance to provide more than just one piece of evidence.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Duke and North Carolina take care of business, setting up a showdown for the outright ACC crown.
The two rivals had one piece of business left to take care of before they meet in Chapel Hill on Saturday night with a pair of hungry teams standing in their way. Duke maintained a decent amount of separation in beating Clemson 70-59 behind seniors Kyle Singler (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Nolan Smith (21 points, seven assists). Seth Curry, who was scoreless in the loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday, added 18 on a night that saw none of the reserves score a point. Can Duke get away with such contributions on Saturday night? That's possible but may be asking a little too much of their leaders, given how well North Carolina has played of late.
Harrison Barnes knocked down the game-winning three from the top of the key with three seconds remaining to give the Tar Heels the win at Florida State, and he finished with 18 points to go along with John Henson's 19 and 12 rebounds. But the Heels' growth has been made possible by freshman point guard Kendall Marshall, who has an impeccable basketball mind. Marshall finished the game with eight assists to just three turnovers, and he leads the ACC in assists per game. North Carolina is without Reggie Bullock, which limits their bench on the perimeter, but Leslie McDonald scored 10 points off the bench and similar performances will be needed down the stretch. Any game in this rivalry is big, but the addition of a conference title being on the line spices things up even more.
2. Cincinnati continues their revival with a win at Marquette.
About a month ago there were serious questions about the Cincinnati Bearcats. Were they a fraud propped up by a weak non-conference schedule? When would Yancy Gates show off the fire that would match his skill set? Mick Cronin's gotten the needed answers of late, with the most recent win being a 67-60 victory at Marquette to put themselves in position to earn a first round bye in the Big East Tournament. Cashmere Wright finished with 15 points and five assists while Gates posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and fellow starters Dion Dixon and Ibrahima Thomas scored 12 points apiece.
Jimmy Butler led Marquette with a game-high 30 points and Darius Johnson-Odom added 15, but the Golden Eagles shot 38.8% from the field on the night (the rest of the team was 7-for-23). Cincinnati's improved defensively and become more unselfish offensively (17 assists on 23 made baskets), making them a tougher team to contend with on both ends of the floor. And as a result it's near impossible to envision an NCAA Tournament field without them in it.
3. Both games in the OVC Tournament result in wins for the lower-seeded teams.
East Tennessee State needed a steal late to survive in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, and outside of Holy Cross losing to Lafayette the Patriot League quarterfinals were all chalk. This wasn't the case in the OVC, where both lower-seeded teams won the first-round games. Southeast Missouri State held Eastern Kentucky to 28.1% shooting with the Colonels going 9-for-29 on two-point shots in their 65-49 victory. Marland Smith led the Redhawks with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Leon Powell added 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
As for the other first round matchup Tennessee-Martin knocked off Tennessee State behind 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists from Terence Smith. Defensively the Skyhawks got the job done beyond the arc, limiting the conference's third-best team in regards to percentage to 13.3% (2-for-15). Next up for these two upstarts: Tennessee Tech (UT Martin) and Austin Peay (Southeast Missouri State), with both having been swept in the regular season series. The good news for UT Martin is that one of their losses to Tennessee Tech was a 109-105 triple-overtime affair, while the Redhawks lost both game to Austin Peay by double figures. But given the unpredictable nature of conference tournaments anything is possible.
Top Three Games
1. (13) North Carolina 72, Florida State 70
2. Nicholls State 83, Northwestern State 81 (OT)
Anatoly Bose took over in the extra session, scoring nine of his thirty points to lead the Colonels to an 83-81 win at home. Will Pratt led the Demons with 24 points as they dropped a game behind McNeese State atop the East Division of the Southland Conference.
3. Lamar 113, Texas State 102
Talk about a wild one. Mike James scored 30 points and Brandon Davis 22 to lead the Cardinals, who led by as many as 25 in the second half before hanging on for dear life. Tony Bishop led Texas State with 27 points and 12 rebounds in defeat.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Tony Bishop (Texas State)
27 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the Bobcats' 113-102 loss at Lamar.
2. F Andy Ogide (Colorado State)
24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the Rams' 78-6 win over Utah.
3. F Vlad Moldeveanu (American)
31 points (11-19 FG), seven rebounds and two assists in the Eagles' 69-53 win over Colgate in a Patriot League quarterfinal.