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Strong finish helps New Mexico avoids 12-5 upset


Mike Miller

Long Beach State played one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules this season, but came up short against nearly every NCAA tournament it played, losing six teams by an average of eight points.

Thursday was no different.

The West’s 12 seed lost to 5-seed New Mexico 75-68, getting outscored 16-7 in the final five minutes.

It was a tough finish for the 49ers (25-8),who trailed for most of the second half until a three-minute flourish sparked by guard Casper Ware and finished with a flush by James Ennis gave them a 61-59 lead.

But the Lobos (27-6) turned the defense a notch, holding Long Beach to just one field goal in the final five minutes while guards Kendall Williams and Demetrius Walker created scores for teammates or themselves off the dribble.

Also key? The Lobos made nine of 10 free throws in that crucial stretch.

New Mexico’s Drew Gordon led all scorers with 18 points, while Ware led the 49ers with 17.

The Lobos now advance to play Louisville, which beat Davidson earlier Thursday. It’s their second trip to the round of 32 in the last three years.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.