LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Basketball is a simple game.
When you can put the ball in the basket, it allows teams to get away with having a lot of deficiencies.
Friday night, the Lobos couldn’t hit a shot and a team that hasn’t proven yet it can defend or rebound had nowhere to hide as the Towson Tigers won a wire-to-wire beat down, 73-58, in the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational in the Orleans Arena.
“We haven’t had a night yet where we couldn’t make a shot. Our first six games, we’ve had terrific offensive performances, where tonight was the first night where we couldn’t score and our lack of defense and our lack of rebounding caught up to us,” Lobos first-year coach Richard Pitino told the Journal after the game. “That is going to happen and you will not win if you think you can outscore everybody all the time. We clearly got to get tougher. This tournament revealed that we’re just not physical enough. We’re not scrappy enough.”
UNM hit just 20-of-62 shots (32.3%) and was outrebounded 45-31. And for the second-consecutive night, UNM squandered a 26-point scoring night by sophomore guard Jamal Mashburn Jr.
“I just care about the win, so obviously I’ve got to do more and we gotta get better in a lot of areas as a team,” Mashburn Jr. said. “… They just out -toughed us. They out-toughed and out-physicalled us. … They brought it to us.”
While previous Lobo losses at Colorado (within 3 with under two minutes to play) and Thursday vs. UAB (tied with five minutes remaining) were competitive throughout, Friday’s game was void of drama from about the time a misplay by the Lobos on the opening tip led to a Terry Nolan Jr. layup just four seconds into the game.
Towson led 12-0 before Mashburn hit UNM’s first shot 5 minutes, 6 seconds into the game.
The Lobos hit just 2 of their first 14 shots (14.3%) while the Tigers jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first half.
When UNM entered the locker room down 42-29 at halftime, its 34.4% shooting was the worst it had posted this season, only to be outdone its 30.0% shooting in the second half.
While the whistle clearly wasn’t kind to the Lobos, officiating wasn’t why they lost the game. Their inability to handle calls or plays not going their way without checking out mentally — especially by their frontcourt players, which has become a recurring theme this season — seemed to be far more influential on the outcome than the 21-13 foul disparity.
Starting center Gethro Muscadin fouled out with a final stat line of 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting, zero rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes. Backup bigs Birima Seck and Jay Allen-Tovar combined for four points on 2-of-8 shooting with five rebounds and four more fouls committed in 37 minutes.
And when the Lobos went small, Javonte Johnson and Saquan Singleton — the guards who play some minutes at the “4” spot for UNM — combined for 1-of-12 shooting and four points (though Johnson did have a team-high eight rebounds).
Taryn Todd was the only other Lobo to score in double figures with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
There won’t be much time for the Lobos to lick their wounds, either. The team had an 8 a.m. scheduled flight home to Albuquerque on Saturday and plays in-state rival New Mexico State on the road in Las Cruces on Tuesday night.
“It’s on me,” Pitino said. “I’m excited to get back home and get to work on it. Because it’s going to be a process. It’s going to be painful at times. But we know where we got to grow.
BOX SCORE: Towson 73, New Mexico 58
UP NEXT: Tuesday, UNM at NMSU, Pan Am Center (Las Cruces), 7 p.m.