University of New Mexico basketball team falls at Boise State - Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico basketball team falls at Boise State

BOISE, Idaho —The Broncos returned the favor and kept their Mountain West Championship hopes alive.

The Lobos, meanwhile, went cold on the worst of nights and are running out of chances at ending their nine-year NCAA Tournament drought.

Boise State used a 17-4 run late Wednesday night to pull away and then iced the game with free throws in the final two minutes of an 82-77 men’s basketball win over New Mexico in front of a lively announced ExtraMile Arena crowd of 9,825.

“I thought we played really, really hard. We competed our butts off,” said UNM coach Richard Pitino. “I don’t think we were offensively very intelligent in the second half. We had situations where we fouled 3-point shooters, twice. And then the free throw disparity in the second half — you got to be really, really good overcome that. That was very challenging.”

Boise State shot 30 second half free throws to UNM’s 12 (it was 34-21 for the game), though 14 of those second half attempts for the Broncos came in the final 1:11 when up by double digits.

The Lobos (20-8, 7-8 Mountain West) are now guaranteed to finish no higher than the No. 5 seed in next month’s conference tournament. But they could also fall out of the top five as San Jose State is also 7-8 in the standings. Only the top five teams get byes into the Thursday, March 9, quarterfinals round of the conference tourney. Seeds 6-11 play an extra game, starting Wednesday, March 8.

Maybe more important to some than the conference tourney talk was that Wednesday was one of the final good opportunities left for the Lobos to get a quality win. They are down to one last regular season game — Saturday in the Pit against No. 22 San Diego State — that has the weight to move the needle for a possible NCAA Tournament bid without having to win the league tournament.

“Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I think the bottom line is, is we’re gonna go try to beat San Diego State,” Pitino said when asked about postseason implications. “The beauty of this time of year is you try to win every game you play. You try to improve your seeding in the conference tournament, and you keep going. It’s been a phenomenal Year 2. We’ve done some amazing things. Let’s go see if we can sweep the best team in the league (on Saturday).”

The Broncos (22-6, 12-3) now shift gears toward rooting for the Lobos as they are one game behind league-leading Aztecs in the standings and a Lobos win Saturday and a Boise State win over San Jose State on Saturday would set up a first-place showdown next week in Boise.

As for Wednesday night’s game, Max Rice, the son of Boise State coach Leon Rice, led all scorers with a career-high 30 points, scoring 22 of those in the second half and 16 of them in the final 7 minutes, 11 seconds, including a go-ahead backdown jumper to put the Broncos up for good at 62-61.

“He just did a good job of finding his spots, losing us a little bit, getting to the line and getting to the mid range area — what he does best,” said UNM guard K.J. Jenkins. “So, yeah. Max definitely hurt us tonight. We would’ve liked to shut him down a lot more, but he’s a good player and he did what he did.”

UNM’s top scorers —Jaelen House (14 points) and Jamal Mashburn, Jr., (7) — went a combined 6-of-29 (20.7%) from the field, and Mashburn’s streak of scoring in double figures ends at 48 consecutive games, a streak that was the second longest in the country. It was too much for the rest of the team to overcome, though senior center Morris Udeze did post his league-best 12th double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds.

UNM led 61-58 with 8:45 remaining when the Broncos started their run.

First, a 6-0 spurt for a 64-61 lead. Later an 8-0 run for 71-63.

Over the final eight minutes, Rice scored 16 of his 30 points while the Lobos were at their coldest.

The first half looked good for a potential Lobos upset.

While a Tyson Degenhart bucket with 10:57 left in the first half pushed the Broncos’ lead to 20-15, the Lobos turned things around from there.

From the 10:35 mark to the 3:00 mark, the Lobos rattled off a 22-4 run for a 37-24 lead. The spurt included four of UNM’s five first-half 3-pointers.

Boise State regrouped to close the half, though, closing on a 7-0 run as the Lobos, who started the game hitting their first six free throws, missed their final three in the final 1:23 of the half — two from Josiah Allick and the front end of a 1-and-1 by Donovan Dent — and New Mexico’s lead was down to 37-31 at the break.

All seven Lobos who played in the first half scored between 3 and 8 points, led by Udeze, who had 8 points and 10 rebounds, including accounting for all six of UNM’s second-chance points in the opening half off his three offensive rebounds.

SATURDAY: No. 22 San Diego State at New Mexico, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/96.3 FM

BOX SCORE: Boise State 82, New Mexico 77

EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK: For more notes, quotes and other odds & ends from Wednesday’s game, including more context about how the Lobos have fared in the past when Mashburn and House have missed that many shots in a game, read the Emptying the Notebook column.

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