BYU had one tiny problem in its WAC season-opener here Monday night - Greg Brown.
New Mexico's diminutive point guard, all 5-foot-7, 140 pounds of him, hit shots from everywhere, and in every way, as the Lobos downed the Cougars, 74-68.Brown, whose career-high entering this season was 19, hit 11 of 17 shots, including five of seven from three-point range, in totaling 35 points.
"I threw up a lot of crazy shots that would have been bad shots in another game, but they just happened to go in," Brown said.
Nothing, on the other hand, just happened to go in for BYU. In the first half, the Cougs missed a lot of shots they usually make; in the second half, they just plain missed, while sometimes taking shots best described as "hopeful."
"We had the shots," said Cougar forward Shane Knight. "We just missed them."
Knight, Russell Larson and Randy Reid, BYU's three leading scorers, were the biggest culprits. They combined to make 10 of 35 shots.
BYU coach Roger Reid said his team appeared nervous.
"Shane Knight was tight, Russell Larson was tight, a lot of guys were tight," Reid said. "I thought we'd play with more composure."
That something was wrong was evident early. Here's how the Cougars' first six possessions went: 1. turnover by Knight; 2. airball by Randy Reid; 3. missed layup by Larson and missed tip by Knight; 4. missed jumper by Larson; 5. airball by Larson; 6. missed jumpers by Kurt Christensen and Larson and block of Knight's shot.
BYU got its first score 3:37 into the game, on a 17-foot jumper by Randy Reid.
Despite the inauspicious start and 22 first-half points by Brown, the Cougars were still in decent shape by halftime. They trailed by one, 39-38, and if you subtract Larson's three-for-10 shooting, they shot a respectable 13 of 25.
In the second half, though, the Cougars were so busy trying to control Brown that they forgot how to put the ball in the basket.
"As porous as we were defensively, it was on offense where we really broke down," said coach Reid.
BYU's stratagem, as usual, was to work the shot clock down on offense, with the goal of making the Lobos expend energy playing defense. That usually works, but in the second half it frequently resulted in the Cougars forcing up bad shots to beat the shot clock.
"We were just stagnant," Randy Reid said. "We weren't moving, we were tentative, we weren't aggressive."
Even with all that, the Lobos had a hard time pulling away. But with about seven minutes left in the game, and BYU down by two, 53-51, Brown made the decisive run. First he hit an underhand scoop shot off the glass, then he put up a leaning jumper that rolled around and in, and then he made a pair of free throws.
After Brown's onslaught, Scott Pritchett laid in a follow shot, and Marlow White nailed a three and a baseline jumper, while BYU was going nearly five minutes without scoring. Before Randy Reid finally ended that run with a three-pointer, the Cougs were down by 15. BYU hit five three-pointers over the final 2:38 to make the score respectable, but they never really got close.
"We were fortunate we got the big lead, because they started raining those threes," said UNM coach Dave Bliss.
The big mystery: How BYU was able to score 17 points in two and a half minutes but only 51 points in the 371/2 minutes prior.
For BYU, Robbie Reid was the leading scorer, with 15 points. Larson had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Mark Durrant scored 10.
Two Lobos besides Brown scored in double figures. Canonchet Neves totaled 13 and White 12. Lewis Lamar had eight rebounds.
The loss puts BYU's record at 7-3, 0-1 in conference play. New Mexico is 9-2, 1-0. The Cougars next play Wednesday night at UTEP.
GAME NOTES: Coach Reid's next victory will be his 100th . . . Kenneth Roberts was listed in the program, and introduced before the game, as being from Sao Paulo, Brazil . . . BYU had 13 assists to UNM's four.