for this game

New Mexico hands Wichita State first loss

Dec 23, 2006 - 7:31 AM LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- New Mexico thwarted Wichita State's bid for a perfect 10.

Tony Danridge scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures as New Mexico handed eight-ranked Wichita State its first loss of the season, 71-68, in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Classic.

The Lobos (9-2) stymied the Shockers bid for a 10th consecutive victory by building a 14-point halftime lead and surviving a flurry of 3-pointers in the final minutes.

"It's a road game and it's a huge victory," New Mexico guard Jamaal Smith said. "We came out and showed them we're a high-caliber team. It was a great experience against a great opponent."

The Lobos will face Kansas State for the tournament championship on Saturday night. Wichita State (9-1), which was among five undefeated teams left in Division I coming in, faces Southern California in the consolation game.

Wichita State was already facing a bit of an uphill climb when it was forced to play without second-leading scorer P.J. Couisnard, who was ill before the game.

"They totally dominated us," Shockers coach Mark Turgeon said. "They got some confidence and we couldn't get over the hump in the second half. They were making three-point plays. It's (New Mexico's) night."

Trailing, 33-19, at halftime, Sean Ogirri hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 17-5 run that drew Wichita State within 45-44 with 11 minutes to play.

After the Lobos opened the lead back to seven, the Shockers shaved the deficit to 58-55 on another 3-pointer by Ogirri with 4:15 to play. They would get no closer despite a torrid shooting display by Ogirri, who hit three more shots from the arc in the final 45 seconds.

New Mexico was able to withstand the 3-point barrage by hitting six straight free throws and Chad Toppert supplied the dagger by burying a shot from the arc for a 68-62 lead with 25 seconds left.

Ogirri answered with two 3-pointers in the final 13 seconds, but a pair of free throws by Darren Prentice with 10 seconds left provided the difference.

"We didn't come out ready to play," Shockers guard Matt Braeuer said. "In the second half, we played with more intensity and heart. We don't like to lose. We'll learn from it and come back tomorrow."

J.R. Giddens scored 14 points, including eight in a row to push the league into double digits in the first half for the Lobos, who won their fourth straight game. Smith added 13 and five assists.

Kyle Wilson led Wichita State with 21 points and Ogirri added 18, all from the arc.