After taking care of Texas-San Antonio, then downing San Francisco, the New Mexico Lobos will be putting their undefeated, 10-0, record on the line when they host the Iona Gaels on Sunday evening in a nationally televised contest at The Pit.
Sunday’s contest will be a special one for Lobo fans and for Lobo head coach Richard Pitino as he goes up against his dad, Rick, who is the head coach of Iona.
In the lead up to the game, the University of New Mexico has said that it has sold over 13,000 tickets for the game, with a solid walk-up crowd to hopefully make it a sellout.
“So fun watching this community rally around this team,” the younger Pitino tweeted out on Saturday.
Sunday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports 1, with tipoff at 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time. The game can be heard on the radio on the UNM Sports Radio Network. The flagship for that is 770 AM/96.3 FM KKOB in Albuquerque.
This is the third meeting between the two schools with the series tied at 1-1. The last time they met was back in the 2018-19 season when the Lobos won 90-83.
A look at the Gaels:
Iona comes into the game riding a five-game winning streak and sit at a record of 7-2 overall on the season.
This is only the second true road game of the season for Iona, having lost their previous one against Hofstra by a final of 83-78.
Iona’s only other loss came on a neutral site, an 86-76 decision to Santa Clara.
The Gaels will be helped out by the return of forward Quinn Slazinski in this one. The 6-foot-9 senior has played in just two games this season but has made a huge impact by averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds in those two contests.
To accompany Slazinski are three others that average in double-figures in points. Guard Daniss Jenkins is averaging 17.9 points per game through nine games that he has seen action in. Jenkins is capable of big numbers, having gone for 31 points in a win over Niagara earlier this season.
Walter Clayton Jr. compliments Jenkins in the backcourt, averaging 16.4 points per game this season. Clayton has gone for 20 or more points in three of the Gaels’ last four games, with that other game seeing him score 16 points.
Lastly is Slazinski’s partner in the frontcourt in Nelly Junior Joseph. The 6-foot-9 junior is averaging 12.7 points per game and has had a double-double in points and rebounds in three games this season.
It will be interesting to see exactly how the Lobos attack the bigs that Iona will bring to this game. Morris Udeze has been trouble for opposing teams facing UNM, but the experience and length of both Slazinski and Junior Joseph present a whole new challenge for the Lobos.
The key will be getting Udeze help. Josiah Allick will be this game’s x-factor for UNM. If he can match his stats on the season of 9.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, and be a nuisance to the Iona forwards, then the Lobos should be able to come out on top.
This will be an interesting game to watch. Might be one of the more underrated contests taking place on Sunday. Aside from the Pitino vs. Pitino matchup, the crowd is expected to be a sellout for this one, which is a rarity for games other than New Mexico State over the last several years in Albuquerque.
Aside from Allick being a key in this game, I really like the play of Jaelen House for UNM. He seems to feed off the crowd at The Pit more than any other player, and I expect him to show up in a big way and for the Lobos to go to 11-0 because of that. Lobos-75 Iona-71.