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Lobos ignore distractions, knock off cold Cougars

New Mexico 73 BYU 58

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico entered Saturday afternoon's game against BYU beset by turmoil.

Its coach, Fran Fraschilla, had been under fire for making controversial comments and its star guard, Marlon Parmer, had just served a one-game suspension.

But after a 73-58 victory over the Cougars, the soap-opera Lobos (12-4, 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference) looked like they didn't have a care in the world.

BYU (12-4, 2-1), meanwhile, found some turmoil of its own before a crowd of 17,046 at The Pit.

The Cougars' leading scorer, Mark Bigelow, scored a season-low four points and their second-leading scorer, Travis Hansen, contributed only eight. That spelled trouble for the Cougars.

"We were worried about Bigelow and Hansen, and we held them to 6-for-20 shooting (from the floor)," Fraschilla said. "That was the difference in the game. The key was to shut down Bigelow and Hansen, and we did that."

The Cougars held a 32-31 halftime lead, but the Lobos staged a 14-2 run to begin the second half — guard Ruben Douglas had nine of those points — to put them on top, 45-34. BYU could not recover.

For the first five minutes of the second half, the Cougars struggled to make baskets, while the Lobos scored with relative ease. "We had a couple of wide-open looks that we missed. That set the tempo," said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. "It came down to the fact they made their open shots and we missed ours."

New Mexico shot 57 percent in the second half, while BYU shot 40 percent.

"Their crowd's like a sixth man," Hansen said. "We let them get going, and it was hard to get the momentum back."

Bigelow was conspicuous by his absence. The sophomore guard played 23 minutes and attempted only seven shots. "Mark just stood around a lot," Cleveland said. "He didn't play with the energy he needed to."

Bigelow said the Lobos didn't do anything out of the ordinary on him defensively. "I don't know what the problem was," he said. "I have to be a lot more active and move without

the ball and set more screens. That's how I get open."

When Bigelow has struggled this season, Hansen has carried the Cougars. This time, Hansen started strong, scoring six of BYU's first nine points, including a quick drive to the hoop and a resounding dunk that impressed even the Lobo fans. After that, though, he managed a meager two points.

"Mark and I just have to play better," Hansen said. "On the road, I want to drive and go to the (free throw) line a lot. When (the officials) don't call fouls, I have to find something else." Hansen did not get to the free throw line once.

Fortunately for the Cougars, freshman center Jared Jensen and reserve guard Daniel Bobik played well. Jensen finished with 15 points and Bobik 11.

New Mexico received an emotional lift from the return of Parmer, whom Fraschilla forced to sit out of the Air Force game last Monday. Parmer did not start against the Cougars, but it didn't take long for Fraschilla to insert him in the lineup. Parmer scored 13 points and tallied six assists in 27 minutes.

The win couldn't have come at a better time for the embattled Fraschilla. During the Air Force game, Fraschilla, upset by some calls that went against his team, told the referees that the Falcons were receiving preferential treatment because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. When that remark showed up in the local newspapers, Fraschilla drew criticism. The fact that Fraschilla is a native New Yorker (Brooklyn) made the comment even more puzzling. He apologized publicly Thursday.

Now, the dysfunctional Lobos seem like one big happy family.

"Adversity tests you," Fraschilla said. "I just didn't think we were going to lose today. I thought our kids would be ready to play. We needed this win. We played with a lot of heart."

BYU traveled to Colorado Springs Saturday night. The Cougars meet Air Force Monday at 2 p.m.

NOTES:Matt Montague recorded a game-high 11 assists and had a team-high six rebounds . . . Bigelow's streak of 14 consecutive games of scoring in double-figures was snapped, as was his school-record streak of 22 straight games of making at least one 3-pointer . . . With the win, New Mexico ended a four-game losing skid against BYU.

E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com