ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico coach Steve Alford came away from Wednesday night's game with Southern California pretty impressed with a long stretch turned in by his 18th-ranked Lobos.
"From about 5 minutes to go in the first half to 5 minutes to go in the game, that was 20 minutes of a really high level of basketball for us," Alford said. "And that was very good to see."Buoyed by that stretch, New Mexico (9-0) beat the Trojans 75-67."I thought our effort and intensity tonight was even up a level," Alford said. "Maybe it was because we started making some shots."USC (3-5) used a 7-0 run to take a 28-18 lead with 8 minutes to go in the first half before things started to turn around in the Lobos' favor.New Mexico closed the half on a 25-6 run that all but decided the outcome."You're down 10 and you end up going up nine at half," Alford said. "So you have a 19-point turnaround in one half."Hugh Greenwood, who led all scorers with 17 points, hit two 3-pointers in the closing minutes, including one at the shot-clock buzzer with 5 seconds left in the half to give New Mexico a 43-34 lead.Over the final 7 minutes of the first half, New Mexico connected on 8 of 11 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range."That killed us," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said. "We didn't guard anybody. We couldn't guard a lunch in a kindergarten class. The game was really won in the last 7 minutes of the first half."Alex Kirk added a double-double for the Lobos with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Kendall Williams contributed 13 points and a season-high nine assists.Five Trojans scored in double figures, led by 14 from Eric Wise, but that couldn't prevent USC from losing its fourth straight.New Mexico's lead grew to 59-42 before the Trojans closed the gap behind a 13-2 run that made it 70-65 with 2:13 left."We cut it to five and we had our chances," O'Neill said.But Williams followed with a 3-pointer for New Mexico to break the streak."You get a 17-point lead at home, there are a lot of things to go wrong to be caught," Alford said. "I thought USC did a good job of continuing to play extremely hard."The Trojans did turn in one of their better shooting performances, going 27 of 51 from the field, prompting O'Neill to say, "I liked the way we played offense."New Mexico also shot above 50 percent (28 of 54) and also won the rebounding battle 31-23, which made Alford smile."It was good to see some guys make some shots," he said. "They've been working awfully hard on things. Plus eight on the glass again playing the biggest team we've played all year. A lot of positives out of this one."