Winning ugly is certainly better than looking good and losing, so the New Mexico Lobos had a good day on Friday.
UNM improved to 2-0 on the young season with a 66-59 win over Illinois-Chicago in the opening round of the Paradise Jam. The Lobos play George Mason (2-1) Sunday at 4 p.m. MST.
After an acceptable first half, UNM was less than impressive in the second half, making just 5 of 18 shots from the floor, missing all four 3-point attempts and committing 11 turnovers.
For the second game, the Lobos won at the foul line. UNM was 9-for-10 on free throws in the final 45 seconds and was 23-for-30 for the game, outscoring the Flames by 15 points at the foul line.
``We haven't played two good halves,'' said UNM coach Steve Alford. ``I know this team has a high ceiling. I know it is going to take a while.''
New Mexico had just two players score in double figures. Kendall Williams finished with 23 points but he was just 5-for-12 from the floor. He made 12of 13 foul shots. Demetrius Walker had 13 points, but all of them came in the first half when UNM was opening up a 14-point halftime lead. Walker had four turnovers and no assists.
``The field goals just weren't going down for a lot of us, especially me'' said Williams, one of three returning starters. ``It's just early in the season. There are no excuses. The field goal percentage just hasn't been there. After halftime, we just let up a little bit.''
Starters Hugh Greenwood and Cameron Bairstow, both from Australia, fouled out for the Lobos. Bairstow had no rebounds and just three points at the line while Greenwood had nine points and nine rebounds. Sophomore center Alex Kirk came off the bench for nine points and nine rebounds.
George Mason, which made the Final Four four years ago, beat Mercer 61-58 in Friday's game. It has beaten Virginia of the ACC and Mercer and lost to Bucknell this season.