- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A hustle play and a quick timeout by New Mexico’s Tim Williams proved to be the proverbial final nail in the coffin for New Mexico against Rice on Saturday night as the Lobos had no more timeouts.

“Players were told before they left both huddles we have no more time outs,” New Mexico coach Craig Neal said. “And Tim unfortunately called a timeout. He Tim Webber-ed or Chris Webber-ed it.”

Egor Koulechov, who finished with a career-high 32 points, hit the technical free throw to give the Owls an improbable 90-89 victory after they trailed by 16 in the second half.

While that final play may have provided the final point, there were many other factors leading up to the fateful final play, Neal said.

“You commit 18 turnovers, you’re not going to win,” he said.

Those turnovers led to 23 fast-break points for the Owls (5-6).

“I think my guys thought that were going to show up and win,” Neal said. “And that’s not going to happen.”

With the Owls jumping out to an early 17-5 lead, all five New Mexico starters hit the bench.

That seemed to get the Lobos (7-3) going as they finished off the first half on a 19-5 run to take a 44-38 lead into the break.

There was a 10-minute stretch in the first half where I thought we were playing the way I thought we were capable of playing,” Neal said.

And even into the second half, with Williams scoring 14 of his 18 points, New Mexico pushed the lead to 66-49. Elijah Brown scored 21 for the Lobos, but New Mexico never found an answer for Koulechov, who scored 24 second-half points.

“He was just better than we were,” Neal said.

New Mexico still held a 77-61 lead with 7:10 left before Rice really kicked it gear.

Rice used a quick 14-3 run covering 1:34 to pull within 80-75, then got within 86-84 after a steal and dunk from Evans with 1:11 left. Koulechov hit a 3-pointer with 22.4 seconds left to tie it and Brown threw it away on a miscommunication while bringing the ensuing possession up court.

“We didn’t do the little things to win the game,” Neal said. “They didn’t play harder than the other team and if you don’t play hard then you’re not going to win.”


TIP INS: Rice is a traveling band, opening a stretch Saturday of five road games in six outings. New Mexico’s string of holding opponents to under 30-percent shooting on 3-pointers came to an end at five. The Owls shot 11-for-27, 40.7 percent.

UP NEXT: New Mexico travels to Hawai’i to meet Auburn in the opener of the Diamond Head Classic. Rice goes to South Alabama on Tuesday.

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