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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Josh Watkins scored 22 points and J.J. O’Brien added a career-high 18 to help Utah beat New Mexico 82-72 on Wednesday night.
Watkins scored on a variety of drives and pushed the ball at every opportunity to spark the Utes (9-10, 2-3 Mountain West) to back-to-back wins after dropping seven straight.
O’Brien, a freshman who missed nine games with a broken foot and had only scored 32 points all season, made 7 of 13 shots and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Utes stretched the Lobos’ zone defense by making seven of their first nine 3-point attempts. Then they found room to drive the lane and get open looks closer to the basket.
Kendall Williams led New Mexico (13-6, 1-3) with 18 points while Dairese Gary added 15 points and five assists set a conference mark for career assists with 483.
Gary surpassed Richie Williams, who previously held the league record with 479 assists, as he fed Cameron Bairstow for a layup in the first half.
The Lobos fell behind 45-28 before Williams made a bank shot from beyond midcourt at the halftime buzzer to make it 45-31 at the break.
The Utes led by as many as 20 points in the second half, but the Lobos battled back and Gary’s free throws cut Utah’s lead to 73-65 with 3:15 to play.
Watkins made five throws down the stretch to clinch the game for the Utes.
Shawn Glover hit a career-best four 3-pointers and the Utes shot 10 for 19 from beyond the arc. That production helped make up for leading scorer Will Clyburn’s season-low eight points.
New Mexico started the season 11-2 but have since lost four of six, including three Mountain West games.