NEW YORK (AP) — Coach Paul Weir is cognizant of the differences between Power 5 programs and the resources he has available at New Mexico.
That does not mean he believes his team cannot compete with those monoliths. Quite the contrary.
“Us non-Power 5s kind of take on a David vs. Goliath,” Weir said after his New Mexico Lobos topped Wisconsin 59-50 in the consolation game of the Legends Classic Tuesday night.
“We’re blessed,” Weir said. “We’re very thankful for the things that we do have.”
Against Wisconsin, what New Mexico (6-2) had was balanced scoring as Jaquan Lyle was one of four Lobos to score in double figures. Lyle led New Mexico with 14 points. Carlton Bragg, JJ Caldwell and Zane Martin scored 12 points each.
“The guys battled,” Weir said. “And were terrific.”
On the other side of the coin was Wisconsin (4-3) which leaves Brooklyn having lost two straight. Nate Reuvers led all scorers with 16 points. D’Mitrik Trice finished with 11.
“You’ve got to be able to score,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.
The third all-time meeting between the Big Ten and Mountain West programs was a stylistic matchup with New Mexico’s up-tempo attack against Wisconsin’s deliberate, half-court approach.
Similar to its 62-52 loss to Richmond Monday, Wisconsin was able to slow the pace significantly. Lanes were clogged, room on the perimeter for ball-handlers to drive or shoot was at a premium and shots were contested as if these were two long-time rivals who knew what the other wanted to do.
New Mexico shot 44% from the field (22 for 50), and 23.1% from 3 (3 for 13), while Wisconsin was 18 for 53 (34%) overall and 7.7% from 3 (2 for 26).
“I liked what we’re doing defensively,” Gard said. “And we can always get better. That’s given us a chance in both these games, and if we can better take care of the ball and knock down some more shots, we’ll be better positioned.”
New Mexico led 29-20 at halftime, and twice extended its lead to as much as 10 in the second half. But Wisconsin would cut into the deficit.
Caldwell and Martin sandwiched layups 1:52 apart to give the Lobos a 54-50 lead. Caldwell’s crossover-and-driving layup with 3:24 remaining increased the Lobos’ lead to 52-45 and Martin’s layup with 92 seconds left sealed it.
Gard lamented the Badgers’ ball management following their semifinal loss to Richmond. Wisconsin committed 15 turnovers in the loss against seven assists, a 2:1 turnover ratio for the game, leading Gard to stress the need to protect the ball.
That did not happen. The Badgers committed 14 turnovers against the Lobos, while recording six assists.
“It’s something that needs to change,” Gard said. “The turnovers need to continue to be reduced. And we’re going to continue to work on that. And point that out in film and drill that in practice. And get better at it.”
New Mexico: Hosts Montana Sunday.
Wisconsin: Travels to North Carolina State on Dec. 4.