ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Makuach Maluach scored 22 points and Anthony Mathis shook off a shooting slump to make two late 3-pointers, helping New Mexico to hold off Central Arkansas 82-70 on Saturday, ending a three-game skid.
Carlton Bragg, in his Lobos debut, finished with 16 and Mathis had 13 for New Mexico (5-4).
"He did what I wanted him to do which was affect the rim at both ends," Lobos coach Paul Weir said of Bragg. "I thought he scored around the rim offensively and he changed some shots defensively around the rim. On the court, that was the things he was going to bring to us — a mobile big, that can affect the two- point percentages at both ends."
Khaleem Bennett scored 14 to lead the Bears (4-6).
Central Arkansas had closed to within 72-66 after Eddy Kayouloud hit a 3-pointer, but Mathis responded with back-to-back 3s of his own to push the Lobos lead back to double figures.
The first half was fairly close until the closing moments when New Mexico finished it off with an 8-2 to run to lead 40-32 at the break. The Bears were unable to get closer than six points throughout the second half.
Many of the stats were fairly equal, but New Mexico owned the rebounding edge 49-38 and dominated off the bench 60-22. The Lobos also had the edge from distance, hitting 11 of 36 3-pointers compared to 6 of 24 for Central Arkansas.
"The biggest thing we didn't do is we didn't rebound well," said Bears coach Russ Pennell. "I thought we defended the 3 well. They hit a lot of them, but they shot 30-percent, well below what they're used to shooting so that part was good. But I don't think we rebounded well. Some of that was long rebounds, the 3-points will be a long rebound. We didn't have our guards chase some of those down."
Central Arkansas faces two Big 5 opponents on the road before heading home to for a breezer against NAIA member Lyon College to close the non-conference slate.
After losing three in a row, the Lobos needed a win not only to regain their confidence but assuage a restless fan base that saw the Lobos blow a 17-point lead in its last game, and lose the two games before that by a combined 60 points.
"We needed it," Maluach said of the win. "We needed to get back on the winning side."
The game marked the New Mexico debut of Bragg, a heralded transfer from Kansas. A former McDonald's All-American, Bragg left the Jayhawks after several off-the-court incidents. It has been a season and a half since he last played in a college game. He came into the game at the 5:02 mark of the first half and added seven rebounds to go with his 16 points.
"Being back on the floor was a blessing and everything else was plus for me," he said. "It's great to be back. Being off the court a year and half, it made me cherish it and respect the game even more. I wanted to take the game even more serious and learn the game even more."
Central Arkansas is in the midst of a five-game road trip finishing up Dec. 19 at Indiana and Dec. 21 at Oklahoma State.
New Mexico continues a four-game home stand Dec. 18 against North Texas.
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