Vance Jackson says there’s only been one small change in the past five games as opposed to the first 12 of the Lobos season.
The same shots just happen to be falling for him now.
Tuesday night, it was hard to argue.
Jackson scored a season-high 29 points, hit a career-high six 3-pointers and recorded his first double-double this season with 13 rebounds in a late nationally-televised bounce-back win for the Lobos on Tuesday night, 78-64, over the Fresno State Bulldogs.
“I’ve been the same player since the first game of the season,” Jackson said. “I just wasn’t making shots. I just kept my head up. Coaches gave me positive energy, and my teammates. Eventually, it was going to drop.”
Jackson’s 29 points coming off 25 in the Jan. 1 loss at San Jose State give him his first back-to-back 20-point games since scoring 26 on March 13 against Wyoming and 25 on March 14 against Utah State leading him to be the first player in Mountain West Tournament history to be named to the all-tournament team without advancing to the semifinals.
The win pushed the Lobos to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in Mountain West games and is also the third impressive bounce-back win after a loss of the season.
“I think it’s more a testament to our players and the character of our guys for just having the resiliency and really good bounce back off of defeat, off of stress,” said UNM coach Paul Weir.
The Lobos did have another slow start, allowing Fresno State (5-11, 1-4 MWC) to jump out to a 14-5 lead in the first five minutes, but the game clearly shifted after that.
The Bulldogs, who rank ninth in the nation in 3-pointers attempted per game, hit their first three on Tuesday night, leading to familiar groans among the announced late-tip-off crowd of 10,010 in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. But the UNM defense held the Bulldogs to 3-of-18 from beyond the arc after that point and overall had a rather strong defensive performance, holding Fresno State to 37.5% shooting.
UNM fought back and used an 11-0 run late in the first half to lead 41-37 at the break, and never looked back.
“We come into every game with the same approach – confidently and thinking we’re going to win,” senior guard JaQuan Lyle said. “I think the main thing this game was whenever we get a lead, maintain the lead. I think San Jose State (last week’s loss) we got up 13 or 14 the first half and everything changed with a lack of intensity on our part, a lot of mistakes on our part. Tonight we did a good job of eliminating them – everybody but me turning the ball over (five times).”
Lyle had 14 points, 10 assists and three steals in the game and was the clear floor general, getting a large number of minutes running the point guard position in now the fourth consecutive game without suspended starter J.J. Caldwell.
Makuach Maluach (13) and Corey Manigault (10) joined Jackson and Lyle in scoring in double figures.
BRAGG BACK: Tuesday also marked the return of Carlton Bragg to the court after a three game suspension that UNM still won’t comment on.
Albuquerque Police on Monday afternoon released to media a police report indicating a woman alleges he attempted to have sex with her in August after a night of drinking. He has not been charged with a crime, but state prosecutors have not yet cleared him from potential charges being filed.
“I said (after the Dec. 22 Houston Baptist game) I’ll forward all the questions to my athletic director,” Weir said when asked about Bragg’s return to the court. “That’s pretty much where I stand now.”
At the end of the press conference, he added, “When I can comment on things, I’ve always been transparent. I’ve always been up front with people. I’m not trying to hide anything. And when that time comes, I’ll be happy to answer as many questions as I can. I’m not avoiding things purposely.”
NOT PLAYING: UNM had a short bench Tuesday with Tavian Percy coming down with the flu shortly before the game and Keith McGee out of state due to a death in his family.
BOX SCORE: New Mexico 78, Fresno State 64