The game was undoubtedly ugly, but foul would be a more apt description for New Mexico's 79-64 victory over Air Force in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The teams combined for 50 fouls and 59 free-throw attempts, with the Lobos making 31 of 37 from the line.
"If there's been something that has been missing in our offense, it's been the ability to get to the line consistently," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "But that was the game plan. ... We're obviously bigger than they are, so we wanted to attack them inside. The guys did a very good job of doing that aggressively."
Second-seeded New Mexico (25-6) faces No. 3 seed UNLV (26-7) at 8:30 p.m. today in the tournament semifinals. The teams split the regular-season series, with each winning at home.
The Lobos set tournament records for free throws attempted (27) and made (23) in a half, en route to a 45-31 halftime lead over the No. 7 Falcons (13-16).
Demetrius Walker came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points and Drew Gordon added 15 for New Mexico, which went on a 15-0 run in the first half to take a 29-15 lead and led by at least nine points the rest of the way.
"I just wanted to come in and provide a spark, whether that's offensively or defensively," said Walker, who scored 14 in the first half and finished 5-for-6 from the field, 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
The flurry of fouls made it difficult for either team to get in a flow.
"It was tough. They blew the whistle a lot," said Gordon, who set career highs for free throws attempted (11) and made (nine). "Air Force was trying to climb back in it the whole game."
Michael Lyons scored 17 points, Kyle Green 14 and Todd Fletcher 12 for the Falcons, who were blown out by the Lobos during the regular season by 39 and 30 points.
Air Force closed to within 69-60 on a jumper by Green with 4:47 remaining, but Walker countered with a 3-pointer from the corner to seal the victory.
"Our bench has been doing it all year," said Lobos guard Kendall Williams, who had 13 points. "Tonight was Walk's night."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.