By Pete Herrera: The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Lobos made sure those early rising voters in Tuesday’s election got a full night’s sleep.
Anxious to bury the memories of back-to-back mediocre seasons, New Mexico opened its 102nd year of basketball with a 99-67 exhibition win Monday night over injury-riddled Division-II member Eastern New Mexico.
The outcome was never in doubt after the Lobos ran off 18 straight points early in the first half for a 31-9 lead.
As the lead grew to as much 42 points late in the second half, the sparse crowd — announced at 12,230 but closer to about 8,000 — steadily emptied out of The Pit.
It was a made-to-order exhibition for the revamped New Mexico squad. Coach Ritchie McKay had the luxury of using several combinations of players.
“It’s early,” McKay said. “Our veterans played really well and our younger guys showed flashes.”
Senior Danny Granger, who led the Mountain West Conference in scoring last season, finished with a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds while playing just 20 minutes.
Junior center David Chiotti and guard Troy DeVries, another returning starter from last year’s 14-14 squad, each scored 14 points.
Newcomers like guards Kris Collins and Darren Prentice had shaky debuts. Each scored 9 points and showed the type of quickness that’s been missing in the Lobos’ backcourt in McKay’s first two seasons. But Prentice and Collins also had seven of the Lobos’ 18 turnovers.
“He’s too anxious to please,” McKay said of Collins, a transfer from Iowa Western Junior College.
ENMU, the champion of the Southern Division of the Lone Star Conference the last two years, got 11 points from Jason Breland and 10 from Jamal Washington. Point guard Jolen Montoya, a former high school star at Espanola Valley, scored 7 points.
“It’s different,” said Montoya, who played in junior college last season. “A lot different from JUCO. They’re stronger, quicker and they crash the boards. It’s a whole different game.”
Eastern New Mexico, hit by a rash of injuries late last season, lost guard Reggie Wallace in the first half. Wallace twisted his left ankle and did not play in the second half.
“I was pleased with the way we competed in the second half,” said Greyhounds coach Shawn Scanlan. “We tried to toe it up with them in the second 20 minutes.
Scanlan was impressed by New Mexico, which has had three straight losing seasons in Mountain West Conference play.
“They’re coming back from two seasons that are tough to go through,” Scanlan said. “They’re out to prove something and I thought they played with a lot of purpose.”
New Mexico hit 8 of its first 10 shots and shot 51.5 percent for the game. The Lobos also were solid from the free throw line, hitting 22 of its first 23 foul shots and 30-of-35 for the game. New Mexico was 11-of-22 on 3-pointers.
Still, McKay said the Lobos have a long way to go for a season that will bring the likes of Wake Forest and Tennessee to The Pit.
“We’ll have much better rhythm on the 12th of November because I’ll shorten the rotation,” McKay said of the Lobos’ season-opener against North Carolina A&T in the NABC Classic. “This team is going to be good.”