In what was the most exciting game of the NCAA Tournament through the first afternoon, Long Beach State came up just short against New Mexico. Casper Ware led the Long Beach State 49ers with 17 points, but couldn’t drop the big shots in the final minutes, as New Mexico’s Drew Gordon and company put the fiesty 49ers away in the final minute.
The game went back and forth all afternoon, with New Mexico sporting the game’s largest lead of six midway through the second half. The 49ers hung tough with the No. 5 seed New Mexico, constantly coming back, but just couldn’t take the lead and hold it, after they tied the game with six minutes to go. When James Ennis stole the ball from the Lobos and slammed the ball home on a breakaway with 4:55 left, Long Beach State took a 61-59 lead. But the Lobos answered immediately after with a Kendall Williams three pointer and Drew Gordon layup.
Gordon was a pest for the 49ers and really wore down the inside game of Long Beach State. He led all scorers with 18 points and 13 boards, and exploited New Mexico’s inside advantage all game long. Gordon, along with Kendall Williams really provided New Mexico with a 1-2 punch that left Long Beach State winded, as they had trouble defending the high-low offensive sets.
A Mike Caffey three with two minutes left put the 49ers within two, but the Lobos closed the game on a 7-2 run to advance to the Round of 32. Casper Ware missed a three pointer with 45 seconds left that would have made the game 70-69 if it fell, but the miss opened the free throw game and the Lobos had it from there.
Up next for New Mexico is Louisville from the Big East, but it’s the end of the road for Long Beach State. The 49ers started four seniors, including Ware, T.J. Robinson, Eugene Phelps and Larry Anderson. Anderson was a gametime decision with a knee injury and never got going for State, as he hobbled up and down the court all afternoon.