March 8, 2012
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Demetrius Walker scored 13 of his 19 points during a 22-3 run in the first half that helped carry New Mexico to a 79-64 victory against Air Force in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals Thursday night.
No. 2 seed New Mexico (25-6), which shared the regular-season title with San Diego State, advances to Friday night's semifinals against the winner of Thursday's late game between Wyoming and No. 20 UNLV.
With Walker leading the way, New Mexico's bench outscored Air Force's reserves 32-19.
"Our bench has been terrific all year," coach Steve Alford said. "Our bench has been very deep. I think, in fact, the first time we played Air Force our bench might have outscored them. That tells you how big our bench is, how important our bench is."
"I feel like I had a real good week of preparation and practice, offensively and defensively," Walker said. "I just wanted to come in and provide a spark, whether that's offensively or defensively. Tonight was offensively. I know coach is probably upset with me about a few back cuts, but we'll discuss that later tonight."
Air Force led 15-14 before the Lobos went on their big run. Walker hit two 3-pointers, converted a three-point play and made four other free throws. New Mexico made 31 of 37 free throws for the game.
"We have games where we go 6 for 10 (from the line)," Alford said. "We had a game plan where we wanted to attack them inside."
Air Force at least kept it closer than the season's previous two games against the Lobos, which it lost by 39 and 30 points.
"I'm glad we battled back," Lyons said. "We've got to get better on defense. We've got to work all spring and summer. I'm really excited about next year. We're going to work hard every day. I'm going to lead by example. We're going to win games, not just compete. We're tired of hearing, `We competed, we competed.'"