Morris Udeze said it was a “blessing.”
Josiah Allick, rarely short on words, simply couldn’t explain it.
After the pair of aggressive UNM Lobo transfer forwards were in deep foul trouble in Monday night’s season opener, on Friday they largely had their way in the frontcourt, drawing nine fouls, committing only two and combining for 34 points and 16 rebounds in an 80-74 win over the visiting South Alabama Jaguars in front of an announced Pit crowd of 9,466.
“I just feel like if I can keep myself on the floor (by staying out of foul trouble), then I have a better chance to put in good numbers for the team,” said Udeze, the graduate transfer from Wichita State who had 21 points on Friday night.
He and Jaelen House each scored 21 (House added seven assists), Jamal Mashburn Jr. had 16 points and Allick added 13 points and nine rebounds to give the Lobos glimpses of the offensive balance they often lacked last season.
It was a Mashburn 3-pointer off an Allick assist with 14 seconds remaining that sealed the victory down the stretch of a game the Jaguars were very much in until the bitter end.
“We haven’t arrived. We’ve got to get better,” Lobo coach Richard Pitino said. “But we’ve got the personnel to where we have options, and a lot of different spots.”
UNM’s defense still struggled much of the game, though UNM did manage to score 22 points off 15 turnovers.
South Alabama (1-1) shot 50.8% from the field and got a near triple-double from guard Isaiah Moore (19 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds). But star center Kevin Samuel, the NCAA”s active leader in career rebounds, was largely neutralized with foul trouble of his own, finishing with 10 points, 6 rebounds and three blocked shots.
UP NEXT: New Mexico (2-0) travels to play SMU on Tuesday night in Dallas.
BOX SCORE: New Mexico 80, South Alabama 74