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It was a mixed day for the state of New Mexico during the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday.
Fifth-seeded New Mexico held off Long Beach State 75-68 and the Lobos will face Louisville in a third-round matchup Saturday in the West Regional. Thirteen-seeded New Mexico State, meanwhile, was unable to handle Indiana inside and fell 79-66 to Indiana in the South Regional.
In the New Mexico game, Kendall Williams scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and bottled up Long Beach State star Casper Ware defensively.
When New Mexico needed a big shot, Williams delivered. His 3-pointer with 4:38 left pushed the Lobos ahead for good after Long Beach State (25-9) took a 61-59 lead on a steal and windmill dunk from James Ennis.
Williams then floated a soft runner in the lane with 1:25 left for a 70-66 New Mexico lead that the 12th-seeded 49ers couldn’t overcome.
“Our coaches told us to get into the lane and penetrate and make plays,” Williams said. “I saw a few openings, a few opportunities and was able to make some pretty big shots down the stretch.”
Drew Gordon added 18 points and 13 rebounds, but New Mexico’s forward was mostly a complement to Williams in the second half. Williams went 6 of 11 from the field, hitting a pair of important 3-pointers, for the Lobos (28-6), New Mexico has been knocked out in its second game of the tournament in five of its previous six NCAA appearances, including two years ago when the Lobos were a No. 3 seed and fell to 11th-seeded Washington by 18.
Gordon, the transfer from UCLA who found success in the Southwest, shot 7 of 10 and Hugh Greenwood added 12 points for the Lobos. New Mexico won its sixth straight after sweeping to the Mountain West Conference tournament title last weekend in Las Vegas.
New Mexico State, however, was not as fortunate.
On its way to the Western Athletic Conference tournament title and an NCAA bid, New Mexico State excelled at what its strength was all season: being overpowering on the interior and getting to the free-throw line.
The Aggies quickly discovered Indiana is nothing like what they faced in the WAC.
“They took us out of our game. They took us off guard,” New Mexico State guard Hernst Laroche said.
Jordan Hulls put on a shooting display in the second half and finished with 22 points to lead fourth-seeded Indiana.
But just as important as the Hoosiers’ shooting was their ability to deny the Aggies what they did best. New Mexico State (26-10) entered the tournament as the best team in the country and getting to the free-throw line, yet attempted just 10 free throws. They were also one of the top teams in offensive rebounds and rebounding margin, but finished with just seven offensive boards — half their season average — and were barely ahead of the Hoosiers in total rebounds.
Not that there were many to grab with Indiana shooting 64 percent in the second half.
“I thought we had a little lull there as far as being aggressive in our rebounding. Because they did a good job,” New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. “They knew we were a very good rebounding team. So they were hitting them.”
Wendell McKines led New Mexico State with 15 points, Bandja Sy added 12 off the bench and Daniel Mullings scored 10.