- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Daniel Faris had career highs with 28 points and 13 rebounds, lifting New Mexico to an 83-71 win over scrappy Nebraska in the NIT’s first round on Tuesday night.

The Lobos (22-11) advanced to play Thursday at Notre Dame, which earlier beat Alabama-Birmingham 70-64.

Faris, a 6-foot-9 center, had a big night against the Cornhuskers (18-13), the nation’s smallest Division I lineup. He scored 18 points and collected nine rebounds in the second half.

New Mexico’s Tony Danridge scored 18 and Chad Toppert broke out of a shooting slump with 15 points.

Sek Henry led Nebraska with 13 points while Steve Harley scored 11. Ade Dagunduro, who averaged 17.6 points over the season’s final five games, got in first-half foul trouble and was held to eight points on 2-for-13 shooting.

Nebraska cut a 19-point second-half deficit to 74-67 with 2:09 remaining when Ryan Anderson made two free throws.

But the Lobos, spurred on by a noisy but small crowd of 7,974 fans, held on down the stretch by making made 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:15. Faris was 4-for-4 and Topper made two during that span.

New Mexico led 39-34 at halftime and opened the second half with an 17-3 burst.

Freshman Phillip McDonald did the outside work, swishing three 3-pointers, including two on consecutive possessions to stretch the lead to 56-37 with 14:38 remaining. During the same span, Faris scored three buckets inside.

But the Huskers didn’t go easy, challenging the Lobos again and again with an aggressive trapping defense that helped them trim the margin to 63-54 on Brandon Richardson’s 3-pointer with 9:10 to go.

Every time New Mexico tried to pull away, Nebraska found an answer. When Faris scored on a putback, Cookie Miller answered for the Huskers with a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 69-60 with 5:07 remaining.

Harley made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 69-61 with 4:22 to go.

Nebraska couldn’t overcome a poor defensive first half. After leading the Big 12 and ranking 17th nationally by allowing just 59.4 points per game, the Huskers allowed New Mexico to score 39 first-half points _ more than any other opponent.

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