LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Despite a gimpy right ankle that sent him to the bench for several minutes early in the first half, New Mexico guard Kendall Williams put on a show Wednesday night against rival New Mexico State.
Williams tied his career high with 24 points, made all eight of his free throws and played 35 minutes to lead the No. 16 Lobos to a 68-63 victory over the Aggies.
With its second win over the Aggies in a week, New Mexico (12-0) equaled the second-best start in school history.
Williams rolled his right ankle one minute into the game and sat out the next five minutes.
“He came back and was just terrific,” New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. “Best player on the floor. Kendall Williams is extremely talented. He had a big game for us both offensively and defensively. He was a great leader. He is playing at a very, very high level.”
When Williams returned, New Mexico State (5-6) was in the midst of a 16-4 run that included four 3-pointers to go up 25-14.
But Williams took over at that point, scoring nine points during an 11-0 run. He started by converting both ends of a 1-and-1, then dropped a 3-pointer and hit a short jumper before capping the run with a drive through the lane.
“Kendall Williams came off a broken foot and came back in, drank some kind of healing water and went to work,” said New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies. “He just made 3s. I need to find out what he’s drinking. It was the Kendall show. Kendall just went to work and did a great job. A good player.”
New Mexico beat the Aggies 73-58 on Saturday in Albuquerque, which made this game a tough assignment.
“Playing your in-state rival back-to-back — that’s never easy, especially when the second one is at their place,” Alford said. “I thought our guys battled again. We did what we do. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. That’s kind of been the case all year long.”
The Lobos took the lead for good with an 8-0 run early in the second half that broke a 41-all tie, with Tony Snell scoring six of his 11 points during the spurt.
New Mexico State closed to 56-54 with 3:14 left, but Hugh Greenwood, who had 10 points and six rebounds, responded with a 3-pointer and Alex Kirk hit two free throws.
“We just battle, we guard we compete and we make big plays,” Alford said. “I thought we made big plays down the stretch.”
The Aggies again chipped away and pulled to 62-58 with 1:02 left, but Snell drove the lane for a floater and Williams scored twice from the line to keep the Lobos in control.
“The last four minutes, we won that last four-minute game,” Alford said. “We’ve done that a lot this year so that’s a good trend.”