ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- After four years, Joe Furstinger nabbed his first double-double, leading New Mexico to a 78-69 victory Saturday over Rice.
"Losing takes a toll and I felt that in the first 20 minutes and I felt that even through the first 30 minutes," Lobos coach Paul Weir said. "We've just been beaten down a little bit mentally and emotionally."
Leading 47-42, New Mexico went on a 9-2 run early in the second half, with Chris McNeal hitting a shot clock-beating 3-pointer to spur the Lobos' surge. It was a five-point game with 5:23 to play after Malik Osborne had a 3-point play for the Owls but a 10-3 Lobos surge sealed it.
Dane Kuiper had 10 points and five assists for New Mexico and Osborne earned his first career double with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Rice.
The game was fairly close throughout the first half, was did not surprise Weir.
"We may not have the size or overall talent to just overwhelm you at the beginning of the game," he said. "We try to do it with our depth and our style of play and hope that over the course of the game we can do what we did tonight."
Rice: After wrapping up its non-conference schedule this week, the Owls open Conference USA play next week with road games at Texas-San Antonio and UTEP. Rice has now lost five of six.
New Mexico: After losing eight of nine, the win gives the Lobos a chance to establish a little momentum with a winnable game up next against Prairie View before Mountain West play starts next week. The Lobos opened the season with consecutive wins before running into stronger competition.
Midway through the second half, the Owls had cut it to 61-55 before Simons hit a 3-pointer, made a steal and converted another 3 to push the lead back to 67-55.
"Those back to back 3s were back breakers," Rice coach Scott Pera said.
Two numbers jumped off the page in the first half as the Lobos owned a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points despite just a 5-2 edge in offensive rebounding. And New Mexico had a 29-10 advantage in bench scoring, with Furstinger scoring 10 of his points before the break.
Although New Mexico's press only forced 13 turnovers -- five below the Owl's average -- Rice struggled from the outside in part because of the pressure.
"It wears on you a little bit," Pera said. "And sometimes they force you take shots when you think you're open and you're not quite open. They want you to shoot before you want to and that's their mindset and style of play."
New Mexico continues a five-game home stand with a game Friday against Prairie View.
Rice is home for only the second time in the month on Friday against Texas State.
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