WNMU scored the first 4 points of the game which was answered by a Western State College 5 point run. When WNMU retook the lead on the next bucket, that would mark the last time the Mustangs would trail as they held on for an 88-74 RMAC victory on Drag's Court Friday night. While WNMU would lead by 17 in the first half and 18 in the second half, it was not an easy win.
Behind a raucous home crowd, WNMU put together an 11-2 run over the next 5 minutes featuring stifling defense and a couple of massive dunks. Darryl Littleton got things started with a steal and a fast break layup followed by another layup off of a Mountaineer turnover. Chad Carter got a layup and a high flying dunk for the next baskets while Merle Branch and Juan Saurez added points from the foul line. The Mustang lead would reach 17 with 6:29 left as Ryan Crane hit a pair of free throws. Western State would hit the last two buckets of the half to trim the lead to 41-28.
The Mustangs knew it wasn't going to be this easy and after charging out of the intermission building the lead to 18, WSC would turn up their defensive intensity and physical play. After going 0-8 from downtown in the first half, the Mountaineers hit three long bombs in four possessions and cut the Mustang lead down to 7 with just over seven minutes left in the game.
But the Stangs dug deep as Branch drove the lane drawing the foul and nailing both shots. That started a 7-0 run that would essentially put the game away with under six minutes to play. WNMU would seal the contest hitting several free throw shots, including four technical foul shots, as the game wound down. The Mustangs would hit 33-44 from the charity stripe.
Carter led all scorers with 24 adding a team high 9 rebounds. Suarez added 14, Andy Solich 13, Brelan Berry 11 and Littleton had 10 as WNMU had five players in double figures. With the win Western New Mexico remains tied for sixth in the RMAC with Colorado Mines and NM Highlands, who won their games as well. CSU-Pueblo lost but remains 1/2 game ahead of the trio.
WNMU will face Colorado Mesa tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the final of four straight home games. Mesa lost to Highlands last night 74-70 but remains in a tie for 2nd place in the RMAC.