(AP) — New Mexico coach Steve Alford shook up the lineup and the message got through, even if the victory wasn't an easy one.
Alford sat Kendall Williams and Drew Gordon on the bench to start the game, and when both got their chance, they produced significant contributions in a 76-71 victory over Arizona State on Friday night.
Alford was disgusted with his team's play in a 62-53 home loss to New Mexico State on Wednesday night and wanted to make a point.
"You're going to produce and play the way we want you to play, or there are consequences," Alford said.
Williams scored 16 points, including 3 of 4 free throws in the final 28 seconds. He also had seven rebounds and seven assists as the Lobos avoided what would have been a second straight embarrassing loss for the Mountain West Conference favorites.
Gordon added 13 points and nine rebounds.
"It wasn't like they weren't going to play tonight," Alford said, "but I think it's a privilege to be in the starting lineup and so we just shook it up a little bit. I thought Kendall and Drew really responded well and responded the way they should have responded."
Tony Snell added 12 points for the Lobos (2-1).
Carrick Felix led Arizona State (1-2) with 20 points, one shy of his career best. Fifteen came in the first half. Keala King added 13 and Trent Lockett 11 for the Sun Devils.
Williams was coming off an awful game against New Mexico State, when he went 0 for 9 from the field and 0 for 4 on 3-pointers in a loss that snapped the Lobos' 21-game nonconference home winning streak.
"It was a big wake-up call on Wednesday, obviously, and coach knows what he's doing," Williams said. "It was a wake-up call mentally, physically, and got me to think about a lot of things. It was good coming off the bench and still staying positive, and hopefully this will turn it around."
Against Arizona State, Williams made 4 of 7 shots from the field, including 2 of 4 3-pointers.
After shooting 28 percent against New Mexico State, the Lobos shot 50 percent (25 of 50) against the Sun Devils — 57 percent (12 of 21) in the second half.
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek thought his team "made improvement" over its ugly 66-60 home loss to Pepperdine on Tuesday.
"I think we were more of a team tonight," he said. "We have to continue on that trajectory. I thought for the most part, perhaps with some lapses, we had good energy and effort, but still not making enough plays. And clearly our turnovers continue to be almost insurmountable.
Arizona State had another tough night handling the ball with 19 turnovers. New Mexico committed 17.
It was tight throughout.
New Mexico's biggest lead was 71-63 on Snell's second straight 3-pointer with 3½ minutes to play. The Sun Devils, though, scored the next six with Chance Creekmur's rebound basket cutting the Lobos' lead to 71-69 with 1:34 left. Arizona State never got closer than that.
A.J. Hardeman's layup on an assist from Williams made it 73-69, and Kyle Cain's jumper cut it to 73-71 with 55 seconds to go. Williams made one of two free throws with 23 seconds left to boost it to 74-71. Lockett missed a 3-point try from the corner that would have tied it, and Williams' two free throws with 6 seconds to go put it away.
Neither team led by more than five in the first half.
New Mexico led 41-38 at the break on Williams' 3-pointer just before the buzzer, and Gordon's driving dunk made it 50-47 Lobos with 14:14 left in the game. But the Sun Devils scored the next six, capped by King's 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Arizona State led 53-50 with 12:14 on the clock.
Hugh Greenwood, who had missed his first six shots, sank consecutive 3s, the first to give New Mexico a 58-57 lead. Creekmur followed with a 3 for the Sun Devils, then Greenwood came back to make another and the Lobos led 61-60 with 7:19 remaining.