Slam dunks are a good way to improve your shooting percentage, not to mention boost your approval rating with the home crowd.
Thomas Manzano cashed in on that opportunity with a rim-rattling jam or two en route to 34 points Saturday night in New Mexico Highlands University’s 115-99 shootout with Western New Mexico.
Manzano rounded out his stat line with 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals as the Cowboys improved to 13-4 overall and 9-4 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
The Mustangs actually outshot their hosts in the first half — though the Cowboys’ superiority on the boards gave them more total shots — and trailed just 45-37 at halftime.
It was all Cowboys, though, to open the second half. Manzano quickly picked up where he’d left off and was a force inside and out. Momcilo Latinovic patrolled the paint, and the speedy Chris Newsome sliced up the lane for a series of layups.
The lead stretched to as many as 25 points, and coach Joe Harge emptied his bench.
NMHU outrebounded the Mustangs 47-28, with 21 of the Cowboy boards coming off the offensive glass. Highlands was credited with 23 second-chance points compared to four for WNMU (7-13, 7-6).
Like Manzano, Latinovic had a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Newsome had 12 points, six assists and six boards; Mindaugas Markevicius added 13 points.
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Highlands’ Cowgirls, 85-67 winners over WNMU on Saturday, have won three of their last four.
Whitley Coca (15 points, seven assists), Briana Gholston (15 points), China Smith (13 points, 11 boards), Marissa Magalei (14 points) and Ashley Godfrey (11 points) all reached double figures for NMHU (8-12, 4-9).
Earlier in the week, the Cowgirls downed non-conference foe Johnson & Wales 81-73 in Denver.
Domonique Rivera led all scorers with 20 points and made it a double-double with 10 rebounds; Gholston scored 12 to lead NMHU.
Highlands had a dozen steals — four by Gholston, three by Smith — and forced 22 Wildcat turnovers.