ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Shorthanded New Mexico rallied with five players scoring at least 14 points led by 21 from Corey Manigault on Sunday as the Lobos beat Houston Baptist 107-88.
New Mexico was missing starters Carlton Bragg and J.J. Caldwell, who were both “being withheld from competition and team activity until further notice,” according to a statement school officials released prior to the game. No additional details were released other than the school, “received information that requires further review.”
Zane Martin, Makuach Maluach and JaQuan Lyle each added 19 for the Lobos (12-2).
Martin, who had six assists with just one turnover, and Manigault replaced Caldwell and Bragg in the starting lineup.
“I think they consider themselves starters probably in their own mind,” New Mexico coach Paul Weir said. “In a lot of other years and teams, they are starters. We just happen to be a deep basketball team with a lot of good players. And those guys we able to step in and do some good things. They’re older. They’re experienced.”
The Huskies (0-10) were led by a career-high 30 from Jalon Gates and Ian DuBose added 16. Gates hit seven 3-pointers, six of them in the first half.
“A kid made a lot of 3s in the first half and didn’t make very many in the second half,” Weir said. “And sometimes when guys are making shots on the other end especially the ones he was making, it deflates you a little bit.
Although the Lobos (12-2) played well offensively, the defense was sketchy, especially in the first half.
The Huskies were knocking down shots in the first half, shooting at a 63% rate from the field and hit eight 3-pointers. They used an 8-0 run stretched around halftime to take a 52-46 lead.
“I thought we came out and really fought the first half,” said Huskies coach Ron Cottrell. “Obviously, we shot the ball really well. They shot it well too and kept it a close game at the half. It was a good half for us offensively. Defensively, I don’t think we played very well. And sure enough in the second half, we played worse defensively and they shot 73% and we couldn’t keep up the offensive firepower the way we were before.”
And New Mexico regained the momentum shortly thereafter with a game-changing 26-2 run to go up 72-58 and cruised from there.
Houston Baptist: With a rugged non-Southland Conference schedule, the Huskies are well-tested after the third-most difficult schedule that included games against Texas Tech, Michigan and Dayton.
New Mexico: The big question moving forward for the Lobos centers on the ultimate return of Bragg and Caldwell. New Mexico probably will be able to cover their absence over the next several games, including the resumption of the Mountain West slate. Fortunately for the Lobos, they start that conference stretch against struggling squads San Jose State, Fresno State and Air Force.
“It’s very recent, very new,” Weir said of the long-term effects of missing the two starters. “It isn’t something we’ve talked a ton about it, especially basketball wise. We really just got ready for the game and the goal was to go win the basketball game.”
The Huskies are permitting an average 101.2 points per game, in part because of their brutal schedule.
“We’re just not a good defensive team right now. We’re doing everything we can to get that figured out,” Cottrell said, alluding to the schedule. “You go down the line of who played and some of them are pretty good offensive teams. We’ve really struggled to shut some of them down. We’re really hopeful as we get into conference play that that will flip a little bit for us.”
Houston Baptist: The Huskies resume conference play Jan. 2 against Central Arkansas.
New Mexico: The Lobos finish their non-conference scheduled Dec. 29 against Cal-Davis.