The returners looked good. The new guys looked good.
Everyone played, and nobody got hurt.
All in all, it was about everything second-year UNM Lobos head coach Richard Pitino could have asked for from Saturday’s comfortable exhibition win — an 85-53 blowout over Division II CSU-Pueblo in front of an announced Pit crowd of 7,929.
“That was that was great for us. I wish we could play more (exhibition games),” said Pitino. “… Just something about playing in front of fans and just having that game day routine is great. … It was awesome to be back in this building.”
UNM senior point guard Jaelen House led four Lobos in double figures, scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go along with three assists and no turnovers in just under 16 minutes on the court.
His new backup — highly-acclaimed freshman point guard Donovan Dent — played the most minutes of any Lobo (23 minutes) and made his Pit debut count with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds.
Eleven of the fourteen Lobos who played on Saturday got in the scoring column and, while there were stretches that saw a lack of cohesion when freshmen and seldom-practiced combinations of players were on the court together, UNM was fairly dominant throughout — shooting 50.8% from the floor (32-of-63) while holding CSU-Pueblo to just 33.3% shooting (18-of-54, including one of the last 12 shots in the final 7:45 of the game).
The Lobos out-rebounded the Thunderwolves 42-37, outscored them in the paint 38-22, held an 11-1 edge in second-chance points, blocked nine shots and snagged nine steals.
For returning leading scorer Jamal Mashburn Jr., who finished with 11 points and two assists in 19 minutes, Saturday was about that defense for a team that finished last season ranked 243rd in defensive efficiency last season.
“We really wanted to come out today and just focus on the principles— just on the defensive and being in the gaps,” said Mashburn.
But while everyone got a chance to play, included two walk-ons, it was the starting five that was clearly the best unit on the court.
“I thought that first half will be a really good picture for our guys to see and learn from,” Pitino said of his team, which led 49-25 at the break. “We (with the starters) built a lead, then subbed, and then they came back in and built another lead.”
The starting five of House, Mashburn, Javonte Johnson and new transfer forwards Josiah Allick and Morris Udeze held a modest 14-10 lead when the first UNM subs came in early in the game. The starting five came back together with 7:22 left in the half holding a 26-19 lead. By the time CSU-Pueblo called a time out with 4:30 remaining in the half, it was 39-21, Lobos.
The game was not close again.
In all, the Lobos starting five shared the court for 12 minutes and 8 seconds, outscoring CSUP by 22 points (41-19).
Allick and Udeze finished with a combined 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while neither played 20 minutes.
Returning forward Birima Seck came off he bench and scored four points and added two steals and five blocked shots in 17 minutes on the court.
“I think Birima was fun to see,” Pitino said. “He’s had a real good fall.”
BOX SCORE: UNM 85, CSU PUEBLO 53
UP NEXT: Nov. 7, Southern Utah at UNM, the Pit, 7 p.m, 770 AM/96.3 FM, TheMW.com (stream)
VIDEO: Here is video of Pitino, Mashburn and Seck talking with media after Saturday’s game:
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK: For more news, notes, quotes and analysis from Saturday’s game, read Emptying the Notebook.
PODCAST: Want to know more about the Lobo players and coaches? Listen to the Talking Grammer podcast. The full 51-episode archive is HERE.