The New Mexico Lobos men’s basketball team started their regular season last week, and it couldn’t have gone better from the record standpoint.
The Lobos were able to defeat Southern Utah and South Alabama last week to get to 2-0 to open up year number two under Richard Pitino.
In the contest with Southern Utah, Jamal Mashburn Jr. led the way with 24 points, while Jaelen House put up 23 points.
The Lobos were able to overcome the gritty Thunderbirds by forcing 20 turnovers in the 89-81 win.
After being down 78-69 with 3:51 to play, SUU slowly chipped away and got to within 84-81 with 26 seconds to play. Needing some free throws to be made, UNM relied upon House to knock down crucial ones late, giving the Lobos just enough to outlast Southern Utah.
New Mexico then turned their attention to South Alabama on Friday night and got more than they bargained for.
In a contest in which UNM was favored by nine, the Lobos struggled to pull away from the Jaguars, with USA taking the lead several times in the second half.
With 10:17 to go, the Jaguars got a bucket from Greg Parham II to give them a 60-58 lead and appeared poised to stun the Lobos and their faithful in The Pit.
The Lobos then got back ahead with a combination of House, Mashburn, Morris Udeze and Josiah Allick.
After Kevin Samuel made a layup with 1:47 to go to bring the Jaguars within 76-74, Allick would find Mashburn for an open three-point shot. Mashburn would knock down the try to give the Lobos a 79-74 lead with 14 seconds to go to put South Alabama away for good.
House and Udeze scored 21 points a piece in the win, which gave the Lobos their 2-0 start.
“We haven’t arrived. We’ve got to get better. But we have the personnel to where we have options, and a lot of different spots,” Pitino said after the South Alabama contest.
Pitino makes a great point, this team has great athletes, showcased with House and Mashburn and adding players such as Udeze and Allick to it. These early season games will be a great way for the team to gel before entering conference play.
House and Mashburn picked up right where they left off last season, bringing energy and scoring to the team. It has been very helpful the first two games with both taking over both games late in the going. With Udeze and Allick showing up as well, this will be a tough team once they get going how Pitino wants.
The Lobos will have two more contests coming up this week. First, on tonight UNM will visit SMU in Dallas.
The Mustangs will come into the contest with a 1-1 record, beating Texas A&M-Commerce and losing to Dayton.
New Mexico will then host in-state rival New Mexico State on Saturday in The Pit. The Aggies will also enter the contest with UNM with a 1-1 record, beating New Mexico-Highlands, but losing to UTEP.