SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -After starting the Mountain West Conference season at the bottom of the standings, No. 15 New Mexico is on top headed into the final stretch.
The Lobos outlasted Utah 68-65 in overtime on Saturday night, extending their winning streak to nine with a rare victory in Salt Lake City.
``We're just real confident,' said Roman Martinez, whose 3-pointer late in overtime put the Lobos up for good after several Utah comebacks. ``We always respect our opponent, but I think we're playing confident now and more calm than we used to be.'
Martinez finished with 15 points and added a crucial offensive rebound in overtime that allowed the Lobos (23-3, 9-2) to extend the lead to five and finish off the Utes (11-13, 4-6).
Dairese Gary scored 19 and Darington Hobson finished with 11 assists, 10 rebounds and eight points for New Mexico. A.J Hardeman finished with a career-high 12 rebounds as the Lobos controlled the boards 45-36 and Philip McDonald added 13 points.
New Mexico led most of the game but could never pull away by much. It was only the Lobos' second win here in their last 21 visits.
Marshall Henderson scored 21 and Carlon Brown had 18 points for Utah, including a 3-pointer to tie it at 60 with about 2 seconds left in regulation.
``It just seems like it always goes like that with New Mexico,' Brown said. ``You just wish you could have won it and wish that you had gotten some calls to go the other way, but that's just how our season has been going.'
New Mexico was coming off a win at UNLV - another place the Lobos have traditionally struggled - and escaped the daunting two-game road trip still alone in first place in the Mountain West. The Lobos haven't lost since opening the conference season 0-2.
``That's really big - coming on the road and getting two wins,' said Hardeman, who just missed out on a double-double with nine points.
The Lobos came dangerously close to leaving Utah in a first-place tie with BYU after going just 10 for 28 in the second half and missing six of 13 foul shots. The poor shooting allowed Utah to stay close and force overtime.
``We didn't shoot the foul shots well and we didn't shoot very well, but we held in there and did enough to take the win in the end,' New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. ``It was nice to take a win on the road this game.'
Hardeman had a chance to seal it but went 1 for 2 from the line to give New Mexico a 60-57 lead with 9.5 seconds left. After a time out, the Utes got the ball to Brown in the corner and his 3-pointer with about two seconds left tied it again.
Alford is the first coach in New Mexico school history to beat Utah twice in Salt Lake City.
``For us to win in overtime - when they made the shot that put the game into overtime- (that) doesn't happen very often,' Alford said.
Brown drove for a layup to put Utah up 62-60 in overtime, but Hardeman tied it again with a dunk and then Martinez gave the Lobos the final lead of the game on a 3-pointer with 1:26 left. Martinez added an offensive rebound on the next possession that led to two more foul shots by Hobson and New Mexico held on for the win.
``Things weren't going our way and we pushed on through,' Martinez said. ``They were trying to fight and go into another overtime. The little things like that I think are huge, especially in overtime.'
The game got testy in the first minute of the second half. Utah's Luka Drca and Hardeman faced off and had some words and exchanged shoves after a whistle. Hardeman got the second one in and Utah fans chanted ``Throw him out!' as the officials took a few minutes to sort out the penalties, which wound up being a technical on both players.
The Utes went scoreless for 5:01 after David Foster's layup cut the Lobos' lead to 20-19 with 8:28 left in the first half. Martinez and McDonald hit back-to-back 3 pointers to get New Mexico started on a 9-2 run late in the half and the Lobos were up 31-25 at the break.
The Associated Press News Service
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