Danridge leads New Mexico over Utah, 77-71
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)—Tony Danridge scored a career-high 29 points, a fitting farewell on Senior Night, leading New Mexico to a 77-71 win over Utah on Tuesday night to force a tie atop the Mountain West standings.
Daniel Faris had 16 points and 10 rebounds while New Mexico’s third senior, Chad Toppert, scored 12 points for the streaking Lobos (20-10, 11-4).
Utah (20-8, 11-4) lost its seventh straight at The Pit and now the Utes are in jeopardy of blowing the two-game lead it held with three remaining, before last weekend’s 63-50 loss at archrival BYU.
Luke Nevill scored 16 points for Utah but had just four points and one rebound after halftime.
Meanwhile, BYU (22-6, 10-4) can jump into a three-way tie if the Cougars win Wednesday night at Wyoming. That would set up a big finale to the regular season with Saturday’s games.
New Mexico travels to Wyoming, Utah is home against TCU and BYU hosts Air Force.
The Lobos went 6-1 in February and kept the momentum going with their fourth straight victory. New Mexico led 36-34 at halftime but went on a 12-0 run midway through the second half to seize control.
Not surprisingly, the seniors made some key plays in that burst. Toppert made 1-of-2 free throws, Faris drove on Nevil for a layup and Danridge added a turnaround jumper to stretch the lead to 60-47 with 8:05 to go.
At that point, the Utes had more second-half turnovers (eight) than baskets (three).
Nevil, after drawing his third foul, grew frustrated. He picked up his fourth foul with 5:08 to go and fouled out after backing into Faris for an offensive foul with 3:41 remaining.
But the Utes weren’t finished. They cut the deficit to 64-58 on Shaun Green’s 3-pointer with 2:43 to play and it was 66-61 after Tyler Kepkay made a three-point play with 2:01 remaining.
From there, New Mexico went 11-for-14 from the free throw line to seal the win.
It was a classic New Mexico homecourt game, with a sellout crowd of 18,018 fans going at full ear-splitting volume most of the night.
Even the coaches got into it. Utah’s Jim Boylen was angrily working the game officials five minutes into the second half after New Mexico came away with a possession under the Utes’ basket.
When play stopped for a timeout with 15:25 remaining, New Mexico coach Steve Alford raced to halfcourt to challenge Boylen, who turned, yelled back and motioned with his finger as if to challenge Alford and say, “Bring it on.”
The coaches shared a good-natured handshake after the final horn, showing no signs of bitterness as they smiled at halfcourt.