by Michael Rowse
The Western New Mexico University men’s basketball team exploded in the first half and early in the second to open a 20-point lead, but No. 18 ranked Adams State University came roaring back to defeat the Mustangs, 87-75, Friday night in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference action.
The first half witnessed the Western New Mexico University (WNMU) Mustangs race to an early run to open up a solid advantage. Following four points out of the gate by Adams State University (ASU), WNMU (4-9, 3-6 RMAC) came back with a 12-0 run started by a jumper in the paint from Chad Carter. Carter added to that another jumper in the paint to tie the game and after Merle Branch hit a shot, Carter came through with another jumper for an 8-4 lead. Branch and Juan Suarez concluded the run with Branch hitting two from the line and then a fastbreak layup from Suarez had the Mustangs ahead, 12-4, nearly five minutes in.
ASU (10-1, 8-0 RMAC) would come back to tie the game and take a two-point lead on a couple of occasions before WNMU closed the half in style. Trailing, 26-25, with a little over five minutes to go in the half, Andy Sohlich triggered another run with a three, which Carter added to that a top-of-the-key deep ball and then Sohlich drilled a fastbreak three to open a 34-26 lead with still four minutes to go. The run was far from over, with Carter tallying a pair of fastbreak layups, and Edward Estavillo capped the 16-0 run with a three-ball for the 41-26 lead at the 2:26 mark.
The Grizzlies would trim three points off the lead keeping WNMU in front, 46-34, at halftime.
WNMU continued with the strong play early in the second half, with Daryl Littleton starting a run with a tip-in just over two minutes in. That was followed by a three from Carter, a three from Suarez and then a layup by Carter had WNMU ahead by 20, 59-39, with 15:22 to play. After a timeout by the Grizzlies, they responded in a big way. Over the next eight minutes they had come back to tie the game at 65 and eventually take the lead at 68-65.
The lead would get as high as 12 over the next several minutes, when WNMU would get back to within eight following a layup by Branch with two minutes to play, but ASU tallied the next four points to close out the game and take the 12-point victory.
WNMU ended up shooting 42 percent for the game (29-69), after opening the game with a scorching 50 percent clip (19-38) in the first stanza, while ASU shot 45.9 from the field (28-61). WNMU held the advantage in three-pointers, 10-8, while ASU enjoyed a 23-7 difference in free throws made, having attempted 23 more than WNMU (34-11).
Carter led all-scorers with 29 points, which is a season-high. Sohlich added 14 off the bench, including four three-pointers, while Suarez was in double-digits with 12.
ASU had four in double-figures, led by 26 from John Jackson off the bench.