Despite some poor overall shooting, New Mexico continues to find ways to win.
After needing overtime in their last contest to remain undefeated, the No. 18 Lobos expect another serious challenge Wednesday night when they host a desperate Southern California team
New Mexico (8-0) appeared to be in for an easy time Saturday at Indiana State when it shot 50 percent in the first half to take a 33-19 lead into the break. However, the game went to overtime after the Sycamores shot 52.0 percent in the second half while the Lobos went 5 of 25 from the field. New Mexico regrouped to outscore Indiana State 13-4 in the extra period and win 77-68.
Though the Lobos shot 38.6 percent and went 5 of 20 from 3-point range in their first true road test, coach Steve Alford believes a game like that will help his squad down the road.
"We're a gritty bunch. Our guys are grinding it like crazy," said Alford, who guided the 2009-10 Lobos to a 12-0 start. "We got stagnant in the second half. But this was a really good win for us.
"We're competing like crazy. We know we have a very high ceiling and we are going to keep getting better."
New Mexico's ability to outwork the opposition in other areas is a big reason it's also beaten the likes of Davidson, George Mason and Connecticut despite shooting 41.4 percent - seventh in the nine-team Mountain West Conference - and a league-worst 31.1 from beyond the arc.
The Lobos, however, rank among the national leaders in free-throw shooting (79.3 percent) and were only outrebounded in a 70-69 win over George Mason on Nov. 18. Defensively, Davidson is the only one of New Mexico's four home opponents to score more than 58.
"It's the fight, the competitiveness, that's got to stay there," Alford said. "Then the shooting will eventually come. When it comes we'll be an even better team."
Guard Kendall Williams was 7 of 16 from the field but finished with 24 points Saturday after totaling 11 on 3-of-13 shooting in the previous two contests. Williams, who averages a team-leading 14.3 points, missed all five of his shots during a 76-58 win over Mercer last Wednesday.
The Lobos likely need 6-foot-7 guard Tony Snell (12.9 points per game) to get back on track after he's failed to score more than seven in three of four games.
Snell scored 10 and Williams added seven when the Lobos came away with a 44-41 win at USC last season.
Though the Trojans (3-4) have averaged 58.3 points and shot 36.7 percent while dropping three in a row since a 59-53 overtime win over Texas at the Maui Invitational on Nov. 20, those defeats came against Marquette, No. 17 San Diego State and a one-loss Nebraska team. USC's other loss came in its Maui opener, 94-64 to previously unranked Illinois.
"They have played a lot of tough competition," Alford said. "They are much better than (their record)."
The Trojans are led by guard J.T. Terrell (12.7 ppg) and UC-Irvine transfer Eric Wise (10.4 ppg, 6.3 rebounds per game). Terrell scored 14, but Wise was held to five and four boards in Monday's 63-51 road loss to the Cornhuskers.