Lobo men's basketball team romps to fun Senior Night win - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo men’s basketball team romps to fun Senior Night win

Whatever happens next week in Las Vegas at the Mountain West Tournament and beyond, Lobo seniors Morris Udeze and Jaelen House made sure the final regular season impression their fans would have of them in the Pit would be a memorable one.

Udeze finished with 25 points and 9 rebounds, House went for 24 points and 5 assists and UNM on Tuesday night shot a blistering 58.2% in a 94-80 win over Fresno State in the final regular season home game of the program’s back-from-the-dead 2022-23 season.

“An amazing bounce back,” UNM coach Richard Pitino said, referring to the buzzer-beating loss at the Pit on Saturday to league-leading San Diego State.

“I was walking into this building today and I felt a little bit of trauma from the last game that we had. I’m proud of our guys to be able to bounce back and play as well as we did. I thought we were phenomenal offensively. We were way better in the second half, defensively.”

It was the most points Fresno State has allowed all season and the first time in the five-season tenure of head coach Justin Hutson that an opposing team has broken 90 points against the Bulldogs (10-19, 6-12 MWC).

UNM improves to 21-9 overall — their most wins since the 2014 season — and 8-9 in Mountain West play. It also snaps a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.

An Anthony Holland basket with 19:14 showing in the second half pulled Fresno State within 50-47, leading to a few anxious moments from the announced Pit crowd of 12,520 who have seen more than a few slow starts in the second half this season.

UNM answered with a 12-0 run, followed by a Fresno State 13-2 run that cut it again to a too-close-for-comfort Lobos lead at 64-60.

But if there’s one thing the Lobos are comfortable with, it’s getting into an offensive shootout with anyone.

The up-and-down pace of the game suited the Lobos just fine, turning the final 12 minutes into a fitting going away party for a resurrected fan base.

Freshman Donovan Dent had a fast break assist to his 23-year-old roommate — “Uncle Mo” Udeze — for a dunk with 11:25 remaining in the game that ended Fresno State’s comeback bid and kick-started the final surge to close the game for the Lobos.

Udeze, the Wichita State transfer and the only one of five senior Lobos honored before the game who can not return next season (the rest have an option of utilizing a “Covid season” of one more season of eligibility), got his 25 points on Tuesday on an efficient 11-of-13 shooting performance.

“It’s been a blessing for this one year here,” said Udeze, who spent his first four seasons in college with the Shockers. “I wish I came here earlier, to be honest. I love the fans out here, my teammates, everybody, man. It was kind of an emotional last home game. All this is a blessing for me to compete with all these fans.”

His thunderous transition dunk fed from Dent was later topped by a dunk with a pass off the backboard from House with 5:02 remaining that put UNM up 86-69.

In between, Dent had the game’s highlight play of the game — a dunk past the outstretched arms of Bulldogs shot-blocker Eduardo Andre — a slam that had the Pit explode and Pitino drop a bottle water bottle onto the court that required a quick clean up.

“He kind of gave us the energy,” Udeze said of Dent’s dunk. “After his dunk, we were like, ‘It’s time.’ That’s fire.”

If Dent is the future, House made sure to remind anyone of forgot he’s the point guard of the present with his 6-of-9 shooting night that included going 9-for-11 at the free throw line helping him to his best scoring night of 24 since going for 29 in a Jan. 14 road win at San Diego State.

Fresno State, which entered the game ranked last in the Mountain West and 346th in the country in 3-point shooting (28.5%), shot a blistering 6-of-9 in the opening half and 58.1% overall to keep it closer than the Lobos would have liked. They finished hitting 9-of-17 from the arc (52.9%) and were led by Jamarl Baker’s 16 points, five assists and three made 3-pointers.

UNM countered with hitting 8-of-15 (53.3%) from 3 and hit 22-of-27 from the free throw line. Three Lobos joined Udeze and House in scoring in double figures — Jamal Mashburn, Jr., (13), senior K.J. Jenkins (11, including a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range) and Javonte Johnson (10, his sixth time scoring in double-digits in the past 13 games after having none in UNM’s first 17 games).

SENIORS: Five Lobos seniors — Udeze, House, Josiah Allick, K.J. Jenkins and Emmanuel Kuac — were honored in brief pregame ceremonies for their final regular season game in the Pit this season. Only Udeze can not return.

Because of the 2020-21 COVID season, the other four have the option to play one more college season, though their public decisions have either not yet been made or announced as of yet.

UP NEXT: Friday, New Mexico at Colorado State, 9 p.m., FS1, 770 AM/96.3 FM.

EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK: For more news, notes, video and more from Tuesday’s game, including a look at whether this season’s Lobos are the best offensive squad in the Mountain West era for UNM (the stats say they are), read the Emptying the Notebook.

BOX SCORE: New Mexico 94, Fresno State 80

49FSUUNMMen by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd

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