Dec. 20, 1997

Men's Basketball Drops Game to No. 14 New Mexico, 81-62

By Pete Herrera

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - No. 14 New Mexico, normally the marquee team in town, showed Saturday it can put together a pretty good opening act as well.

On a day when New Mexico hired UCLA defensive coordinator Rocky Long as its new football coach and the New Mexico women played No. 6 Texas Tech later Saturday, the Lobos extended their homecourt winning streak to 32 games - second longest in the country - with an 81-62 win over Texas Tech.

"We were the opening act in a day and week of tremendous Lobo excitement," coach Dave Bliss said.

New Mexico (7-1) trailed 40-31 with 2:40 left in the first half, but scored the final seven points of the half, then outscored the Red Raiders 20-6 over the first 11 minutes of the second half.

New Mexico turned around the game by going to Kenny Thomas inside and outside.

Thomas hit 10 of 21 shots, most by muscling his way over Tech's frontline. And when the Red Raiders forced Thomas outside, he connected on two 3-pointers, finishing with 26 points.

"As soon as we settled down and got it into Kenny, we became a much better team," Bliss said.

New Mexico also got a major contribution from freshman guard Kevin Henry, who finished with a season-high 11 points and was 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

"Our bench isn't what we want yet, but it was good today because of the great game we got from Kevin," Bliss said.

Down 58-46 after the Lobos' run, Texas Tech (4-4) rallied back within 62-58 as Rayford Young and Cory Carr each scored five points over the next 2 1/2 minutes. But the Lobos buried the Red Raiders for good with a trio of 3-pointers by Thomas, Royce Olney and Lamont Long.

"Olney's shot was huge and Thomas hits the 3 when you let him set up," Red Raiders coach James Dickey said. "But that's what good teams do on their homecourt. They bury people."

Olney just beat the 35-second shot clock with his 3-pointer from the top of the key, Thomas popped out behind a screen to hit his 3 and Long finished off the triple 3s with one from the left side.

New Mexico also had its best rebounding game of the year as Thomas, Long and Clayton Shields all finished with double-doubles. Thomas had 10 rebounds, Long scored 19 points and had a career-high 13 rebounds, while Shields had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

Texas Tech hit eight of its first 13 shots, but saw its shooting disappear in the second half, going just 6-of-25 (24 percent). The Red Raiders' first six possessions of the second half set the tempo for the remainder of the second half.

"Those minutes just before the half were critical," Dickey said. "Then they took over in the first five minutes of the second half."

The Red Raiders made one of six shots in that span, including two blocks by Shields, and had two turnovers. By then, New Mexico's scoring run had reached 13 straight points.

Carr finished with 20 points and Young scored 15.

New Mexico's 32 straight wins at home is second behind Kansas' 50 straight at Allen Field House.

Texas Tech senior Da'Mon Roberts, who was academically ineligible for the first seven games, scored eight points and had nine rebounds.


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