New Mexico drops Marquette 75-68
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Marquette's Todd Mayo drives to the basket against New Mexico's Alex Kirk during the second half of their game Saturday in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS — New Mexico coach Craig Neal had to be happy with his son, Cullen, Saturday night.
And the Lobos have to be content playing in Las Vegas.
Freshman Cullen Neal scored a career high 24 points, including six 3-pointers to lead New Mexico past Marquette 75-68 at the MGM Grand Showcase benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer on Saturday night.
Neal attempted eight 3-point shots and was 8 of 12 from the field. His six 3-pointers also were a career high.
"I wasn't aware of (of my points). I'm just trying to focus on the main goal," said Cullen Neal, whose previous high this year was 15 points vs. Davidson Nov. 24. "I'm getting into the flow. The big men were giving me the passes."
Cameron Bairstow added 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists for New Mexico (8-3). Bairstow hit all eight of his free throw attempts. Kendall Williams added 14 points, while Deshawn Delaney had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lobos converted 18 of 24 from the free-throw line.
"We shot the ball better from the free-throw line," coach Neal said. "I think we're right at 76 percent. I think that's the best we had in a long time. I can't figure out a free-throw defense. Teams are shooting 79 percent against us. It was good to make free-throws at the end to win it."
Marquette meanwhile was 9 of 14 from the line.
While Cullen is in his first year with the Lobos, coach Neal is at the helm in his first year, taking over for Steve Alford.
"He's trusting his teammates and making plays," coach Neal said. "As a coach, I knew he could do that. As a dad, I want him to be perfect. I was happy he had a breakout game."
Jake Thomas led Marquette (7-5) with 17 points, converting four 3-pointers. Jamil Wilson added 15 points, while Todd Mayo had 10.
Marquette was outscored 45-31 in the second half.
After trailing 37-30 at halftime and later by nine, the Lobos hit 8 of their first 12 second-half shots to rally for a 53-47 advantage with 11:53 to go. The Golden Eagles scored the next nine points to lead by three with 9:08 remaining.
The Lobos responded with an 11-4 run, taking the lead for good at 61-60 on a Bairstow free throw with 5:23 left. New Mexico later built 70-62 lead, its largest, with 1:08 left.
The Lobos shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, while the Golden Eagles were at 36.
New Mexico's last trip to Las Vegas in March resulted in the Mountain West Conference title, winning three games at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"Our fans love Vegas," coach Neal said. "Our fans travel well here. Our guys play comfortable here."
The Golden Eagles led at intermission thanks to 58 percent shooting from the field. After five lead changes, Marquette took the lead for the rest of the half at 25-24 with 5:08 left in the half. Both teams built seven-point first-half leads.
This was the first meeting between the two teams.
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