Long Beach State tested itself against the best this season, playing the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule with an eye toward March.
The Mountain West tournament champions had to fend off a second-half rally from the 49ers, but the Lobos showed poise at the free throw line in the final minutes, making nine of their final 10 attempts to seal the win.
Senior forward Drew Gordon led the way with 18 points and 13 rebounds and Kendall Williams added 16 points for New Mexico which will face Big East tournament champions Louisville on Saturday in Portland.
The 49ers trailed 33-29 at the half but fought back to take the lead on a James Ennis dunk with five minutes left. But they went ice cold the rest of the way, hitting only two field goals.
Two-time Big West player of the year Casper Ware scored 15 points but only got five points from starting backcourt mate Larry Anderson who struggled to play through a knee injury. Long Beach State which, which faced North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Louisville earlier this season, had seven seniors on its roster.
Box score: New Mexico, Long Beach State
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