Udeze, Lobos set for showdown at Nevada - Albuquerque Journal

Udeze, Lobos set for showdown at Nevada

UNM center Morris Udeze (holding ball) pumps his fist after making the game-winning shot on Friday night in overtime against Boise State at the Pit. The Lobos are on the road Monday night at Nevada. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

On the one hand, after summer workouts and learning about his new UNM teammates, Morris Udeze took a look at the schedule in the preseason and didn’t see a game he felt the team couldn’t win.

On the other hand, while he doesn’t lack at all in confidence — in his game or his new team — the 6-foot-8 fifth-year senior power forward can’t help but admit that the ride so far has been even more than he could have ever expected when he decided to transfer from Wichita State to play for the Lobos for his final season of college basketball.

“I didn’t expect my numbers to be as good as they are,” said Udeze in a recent podcast interview with the Journal. “Playing with really good guards, and Jo’s (Josiah Allick) obviously good. Javonte (Johnson) is good. But I don’t think my numbers were going to be as good. I knew I was gonna be a great rebounder, (but) scoring has kind of gone up since last year. It’s all a blessing.”

But Udeze and the Lobos (18-2, 5-2 Mountain West) don’t have much time to enjoy their fast start to the season, or Friday’s huge home overtime victory over Boise State, a game in which he hit the game-winning bucket with two seconds left in overtime.

Udeze and the Lobos on Monday night are back on the road, playing at Nevada (15-5, 5-2) — one of five Mountain West teams currently sitting in the top 35 of the NCAA’s NET rankings and one of four teams tied for second in the league standings at 5-2. The league leader — 6-1 San Diego State — suffered its lone loss in conference play to the Lobos last weekend in San Diego.

Nevada, and former Lobos head coach Steve Alford, are arguably every bit as much a surprise as the Lobos right now as the Wolf Pack was picked ninth in the preseason league media poll.

But as for the Lobos’ rise back to national prominence for the first time since he was roaming the sidelines in the Pit, Alford acknowledges Udeze was a huge addition to the foundation of elite guards Jamal Mashburn, Jr., and Jaelen House from last season.

“Just very explosive,” Alford told Nevada Sports Net of what he sees in this season’s Lobos team. “Obviously House and Mashburn make them go, but I love their complimentary players and the guy they got from Wichita — the big guy from Wichita is a huge piece for them because I don’t think they had that last year.”

Entering Monday’s game, Udeze ranks seventh in the league in scoring (15.7 points per game), first in rebounding (8.5), second in field goal percentage (58.5%) and fourth in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (6.1).

And while he’s quick to tell anyone who asks, or any teammate who might be losing focus, that the team has far more left to accomplish than it already has, he’s not afraid to acknowledge he’s feeling pretty proud about the decision to take a chance on moving to Albuquerque for his final season.

“Zero regrets in this situation I’m in. Zero regrets, man,” Udeze said. “I’m just thankful — thankful for God. Thankful for coach P (Richard Pitino), he put me in a great situation.”

ALFORD ON UNM: While Alford holds a 6-0 record against UNM since coaching at Nevada (2-0 in Reno, 2-0 in Lubbock, 1-0 in the Pit and 1-0 in Las Vegas), he knows his team has its work cut out for it Monday night.

His Wolf Pack team was fairly uncompetitive against San Diego State in a game there Jan. 10, trailing by as many as 22 points. Four days later, the Lobos led almost the entire night and won at San Diego State, 76-67.

“You instantly get the respect of the league when you go into San Diego State and win,” Alford told Nevada Sports Net.

Nevada split this season with Boise State, winning by 2 — as did the Lobos — over the Broncos at home on Dec. 28, but losing this past Tuesday in Idaho, 77-62.

The Wolf Pack has been off since then, having nearly a week to prepare for UNM. The Lobos flew to Reno on Sunday.

PODCAST: Links to listen to the Morris Udeze podcast interview can be found HERE.

GAME TIME: UNM at Nevada, 7 p.m. Monday (6 p.m. PT in Reno), CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/96.3 FM

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