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Neal and Kirk help New Mexico beat Utah State
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - After three subpar games, Utah State’s Preston Medlin found his shot and it was nearly enough to help the Aggies upset No. 25 New Mexico.
That is, until the Lobos (22-5, 13-2 Mountain West) began to hit shots of their own to pull out a 67-58 victory Tuesday night.
“He’s had a tough couple of games and he bounced back well tonight,” said Aggies coach Stew Morrill. “He shot the ball well and he played with a lot of fire. That was good to see.”
Medlin, who finished with 19 points, came into the game having shot 5 for 30 and 2 for 15 over the last three games, all losses. He finished 7 for 12, including 4 for 5 on 3-pointers against New Mexico.
But with a 47-39 lead, Medlin and Utah State (15-13, 5-11) ran out of steam midway through the second half as the Lobos went off on a decisive 23-5 run to go up 62-52.
“I just feel like they were playing a little bit harder and making us miss shots that we might have been making in the first half,” he said. “They did a great job of playing hard. We didn’t do a great job during that stretch.”
Morrill said it was more a matter of what the Aggies didn’t do as opposed to what New Mexico did.
“They made shots and we missed shots,” he said of the game-changing run. “That’s it. I don’t think there’s more to it than that. The crowd helped them a little bit defensively. We had a lot of good shots and we just missed them. That’s a sign of a really good team. When the game is on the line, they step up and make some shots. They did and we didn’t.”
The biggest shot maker for New Mexico turned out to be freshman reserve guard Cullen Neal, who hit a big 3-pointer to start the run, and added six points during the stretch, finishing with 12.
“You are always aware of shooters that come off the bench, if they’re a driver or what they do,” Medlin said. “Obviously, he had a great game tonight. That really hurt us when he came off the bench. He had a great spark for them in the second half. That was tough for us.”
Cameron Bairstow had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Lobos while Alex Kirk added 13 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
“That was a grind,” New Mexico Craig Neal said. “I knew it was going to be a tough game.”
By Bob Dole
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