Whenever two evenly-matched opponents face off, just one aspect of the game can make all the difference.
Wednesday night in Albuquerque, the difference was free throws.
No. 23 New Mexico made five more free throws on 13 more attempts than No. 10/12 BYU to defeat the Cougars, 76-72, at The Pit. The loss snapped BYU's nation-leading 15-game winning streak.
New Mexico point guard Dairese Gary made 12 of his 17 free throws, finishing with 25 points to lead the Lobos. Seven of Gary's made free throws came in the last 1:12 of play to put the game away.
At game's end, New Mexico shot 21-of-33 from the free throw line, while BYU finished 16-of-20.
The Lobos also took advantage of foul trouble among BYU's big men. Chris Miles, Brandon Davies, and Chris Anderson combined for one point, seven rebounds, two blocks, and 10 fouls in just 22 minutes of play for the Cougars (20-2, 5-1 MWC).
BYU's lack of size led to 13 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points for New Mexico (19-3, 5-2 MWC). Darington Hobson led the Lobos with 14 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
Jimmer Fredette led BYU with 27 points and seven assists, but shot just 8-of-21 from the field. Fredette's three-pointer with 3:12 remaining gave the Cougars a 64-62 lead, but New Mexico responded with a 9-1 run over the next two minutes to take back the lead for good.
Jonathan Tavernari added 17 off the bench for BYU, who returns home to face rival Utah on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, New Mexico will head to the Lone Star State to face TCU on Saturday.