In the notorious pit that is 37 feet below street level is New Mexico’s University Arena where San Jose State (7-12, 0-7 MW) dug themselves into its own pit of despair in an 86-70 loss.
The Lobos (8-13, 1-7 MW) in a strong and dominating performance notched their first Mountain West conference win. With strong guard play and five New Mexico players in double digit scoring, the Spartans never had a chance.
The contrast of guard play was one key striking difference. While Lobos Jamaal Mashburn Jr (23 points) and Jalen House Jr. (18 points) were electric, Spartan guard play overall was anemic.
Though usual-suspect, Omari Moore (14 points, seven rebounds & seven assists), does remain consistent and a key focal point for opponents to neutralize, guards Alvaro Cardenas and Trey Smith are in more stark contrast.
Spartan forwards Shon Robinson (17 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and again the only Spartan on the plus side of the +/-) and Trey Anderson (14 points) remain staunch and their best interior performers.
Along with Moore (and without a true center), those are your staples at this point.
Head coach Tim Miles in trying to shake things up used guards MJ Amey and Josh O’Garo much earlier than usual. Though still with overall mixed results, Amey asserted himself with a hard-earned 12 points.
First half notes
Lobos head coach Rich Pitino is also in a rebuild mode as is his longtime friend Miles (from their Nebraska and Minnesota basketball days).
With Pitino able to roster two high performing players with NBA pedigree in House and Mashburn, his UNM team came out hot; going on an immediate 9-0 run while the Spartans missed badly on three consecutive three-pointers before Miles called his first timeout.
The Spartans found a bit of rhythm five minutes in but going 3 of 16 (19%) from beyond the arc wasn’t helping their plight. Add some highly suspect Spartan defense, the Lobos were consistently running back door cuts and screen roll action to easy baskets.
But an 11-point deficit at half time left some hope.
Lobos kept responding in the second half
The Spartans did finally answer with some offense and some stops but they couldn’t keep that formula going long enough.
With the Spartans going 6-27 overall from three, the Lobos kept responding every time the Spartans got into striking distance before finally pulling away to a 16-point win over SJS.
No rest for the weary as the Spartan mountain keeps getting steeper.