Jugovic leads Tennessee Tech over New Mexico 104-96
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Aleksa Jugovic hit his first nine shots and finished with a career-high 31 points to help Tennessee Tech knock off New Mexico 104-96 on Tuesday night.
Jugovic hit all seven of his 3-pointers, including a dagger in the final minute that put the Golden Eagles (4-1) up 97-93, and also added six assists.
Chris McNeal scored 29 points on 7-of-11 shooting on 3-pointers, and Sam Logwood added 21 for the Lobos (2-2).
Curtis Phillips had 23 points and Kajon Mack and Shaq Calhoun 14 each.
Tennessee Tech didn’t score until the 15:55 mark and missed its first 10 shots from the field before Jugovic hit the first of his six first-half 3-pointers.
New Mexico got out to a 22-8 lead before Jugovic got hot midway through the first half, dragging the Golden Eagles back into contention almost by himself.
“He’s a good player,” Tennessee Tech coach Steve Payne said. “That’s what he does. He’s had a good career. He’s going to have a good year. He’s done that before. He’s a shooter. I thought the key was how we handled the pressure on the front end to find him on the back.”
Jugovic, who finished the first half with 24 points, scored 10 in a 11-2 run that brought Tennessee Tech within 26-21, then followed that up moments later with eight points in the midst of a 14-6 run that tied it at 35-all.
“They just made shots,” New Mexico coach Paul Weir said. “The one kid was 7 for 7. That’s obviously an incredibly impressive shooting night. They were better than us. In the first half, he got loose at the back of the press. He took some really bold shots. He made some tough ones.”
Handling the press was an important factor in the game, Payne said.
“Our guys did a great job, especially after the first few minutes,” he said. “The second half, I thought we did a super job of handling the basketball and putting it in the right spot. I thought making them pay at the back of the press was important. It kind of took some wind out of their sails.”
McNeal put on a first-half show himself, at one point hitting three consecutive 3-pointers and had 18 at the break.
In the second half, neither side could build a lead larger than the 73-67 advantage the Lobos took with nine minutes left before the Golden Eagles pulled away with an 8-2 run to go up 99-93.
The win gives Tennessee Tech its best start since starting the 2014-15 season 4-1.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran guys,” Payne said. “We’ve been through the wars. There’s a lot of seniors.”
New Mexico now has dropped back-to-back games after losing to rival New Mexico State on Friday with some tough games looming.
“This can’t be our trajectory,” Weir said. “We have to find a way to get this back on track, get playing well, get defending again, getting stops getting plays. I think the emotional toll of the New Mexico State loss lingered into (Tuesday).”
Although the Lobos forced more turnovers (17) and scored more points off of them (24), New Mexico’s inability to make passes helped turn the game around.
“That’s on me as a coach,” Weir said. “We haven’t spent enough time on their individual skill development. It was awful. It looks like we don’t coach. It was embarrassing to be honest with you. It’s something that we’re going to have to make drastic changes to. I didn’t think we were that bad of a passing team but (Tuesday) we really were.”
New Mexico heads to Niceville, Fla., to meet Texas Christian in the next round of the Emerald City Classic on Friday. The Lobos own a 16-6 advantage in the series, but the two haven’t played since 2012.
The Eagles also head to Niceville to meet Omaha in the tournament.