Lobos take care of business vs. Western New Mexico, stay in elite club of unbeatens - Albuquerque Journal

Lobos take care of business vs. Western New Mexico, stay in elite club of unbeatens

New Mexico’s Jamal Mashburn Jr. , right, is defended by Western New Mexico Mustang Keith Littles during the first half of Tuesday’s game, won by the Lobos 102-63. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

There was no sleepwalking through an NCAA Division II opponent for the New Mexico Lobos on Tuesday night in the Pit.

At least not for a half.

All 12 Lobos who got on the court scored, including five in double figures, and UNM cruised to a 102-63 win over Western New Mexico in front of an announced crowd of 8,329.

The win pushed UNM to 8-0 in the only game they have scheduled against a non-Division I opponent. The Lobos are one of the final 10 (out of 363) Division I programs in the country that has yet to lose.

And while the outcome on Tuesday was hardly ever in doubt after the Lobos jumped on the Mustangs 49-20 in the first half and held the visitors from Silver City to just 29.0% shooting and 0.526 points per possession, there were 31 fouls called, and WNMU scored 43 points, in a drawn-out second half.

While the Lobos led 42-14 with 1:30 left in the opening half, they were outscored by WNMU 19-15 over the first eight minutes of the second half.

“I thought the first half we had we had a high level of maturity,” said Lobo coach Richard Pitino. “We were playing hard. We were scrapping. We were challenging shots.

“It got away from us in the second half with the fouling. But I was very, very happy with the way that they were scrapping. We had Josiah (Allick, a starter) diving on loose balls. And so they played really, really hard. We definitely took a step back with some execution the second half, but first half, I was certainly very, very happy with it.”

UNM’s top dogs had their usual successes: Morris Udeze game-high 18 points and three blocks; Jamal Mashburn Jr. had 17 points in 20 minutes; Josiah Allick had seven points and 13 rebounds, and Jaelen House had eight points on just four shot attempts with seven assists in under 18 minutes.

But games like Tuesday aren’t really as much about the starters and veterans as it is for the Lobos on the bench. Freshman guard Donovan Dent had 12 points, seven assists and just one turnover; sophomore Birima Seck had a career-high 11 points (he scored 11 points his entire freshman year) and grabbed eight rebounds before fouling out in just 11 minutes on the floor; and even walkons Safi Fino-A-Laself and Mac Manzanares got into the scoring column, much to the delight of the Lobos bench.

“Those games are good, but they’re challenging in their own little way,” Pitino said. “And it was great to be able to get Birima, Sebastian (Forsling), Braden (Appelhans), Mac and Safi in at the end. So they’re challenging games to play and they’re challenging games to coach in, but I thought, for the most part, we did our part. …

“I told our guys we’d been going lighter in practice. Use this as an advantage. It’s an opportunity to get better.”

WNMU was led by 17 points off the bench from Dane Quest. The Mustangs were just 14-of-28 at the free throw line, keeping a foul-heavy second half from turning into a tight game.

INJURED: Senior wing Emmanuel Kuac, still recovering from a broken leg suffered Jan. 8 of last season, did not suit up for Tuesday’s game with a calf injury.

“We were hoping to get him some minutes, but he kind of re-aggravated it in practice yesterday,” Pitino said. “Unfortunately, when you have that serious of an injury, I think you start favoring other things. So it can be a slow process.”

NOTES: The 29-point halftime lead was UNM’s largest since halftime lead since the Lobos lead the University of the Southwest 50-19 in Ralph Tasker Arena in Hobbs on Dec. 30, 2018. …

It’s the 11th 8-0 start in 119 seasons of Lobo basketball.

WNMUUNM by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd

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