On a cold, rainy, night in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Lobos men’s basketball team dazzled in their season opener against the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds on Wednesday night, winning 92-71.
Despite the dreary conditions outside, 9,501 fans came to DreamStyle Arena, and many more tuned in on the radio and computers and were excited by what they heard. Makuach Maluach may have led the Lobos in scoring with 16 points, but it was the unselfish play of JaQuan Lyle that had many Lobo fans in attendance standing on their feet.
Lyle scored only nine points, but it was his 11 assists that most applauded. Several of Lyle’s passes were no look passes left for teammates who had easy dunks or layups. None more exciting than the no look pass to a trailing Carlton Bragg for a tomahawk dunk with 6:50 to play in the first half that pushed the Lobos lead to 29-21. Bragg ended with 13 points on the night.
Still cause for concern:
Despite how the final score looked, and how dazzling the offense was, the Lobos still ended the contest with 21 turnovers, and were outrebounded 37-36. Granted that is what games like these are for, to tune up before tougher opponents come. Considering that Eastern New Mexico’s tallest player in 6-foot-7, being outrebounded is a little embarrassing, and the 21 turnovers might’ve cost the Lobos the game if it were against a tougher opponent.
Obviously, Coach Weir and Co. will work on both and hopefully there will be some progress made during Saturday night’s contest against Cal State-Northridge.
Things Lobo fans should be excited about:
Lyle’s debut performance was all that was expected; he showed flashes of why he was heavily recruited by Power Five Conferences. His 11 assists were the most since Drue Drinnon’s 12 last season against Southwest, and it’s only the sixth time in the Paul Weir era that a Lobo player ended with double digits in assists.
The Lobos defense against the two top players from Eastern New Mexico was phenomenal. Devin Pullum had 18 points against Tennessee but was held to just seven points last night, and Isaiah Murphy who had 15 points against the Volunteers ended up with just nine points last night. It’s good to see great defense by the Lobos no matter the opponent, and especially considering how rough this team had it during the non-conference slate last season.
Despite the 21 turnovers, the Lobos offense looked good. UNM shot 60% from the field, had 22 assists to 33 made field goals, and had five players score in double figures, with two of their best in Vance Jackson and Lyle not being one of those five. That bodes well for a Lobo team that will have several challenges later this season with teams who are both very good defensively and offensively.
The Lobos will be back on the court Saturday night in The Pit as they host Cal State-Northridge. This is a rematch from last season’s thriller that the Lobos won 87-84 with a three pointer at the buzzer in Northridge. CSUN will come into the contest with a record of 0-1 after losing to Oregon State 87-67 on Tuesday night.