The New Mexico Lobos ran their record to 11-0 on the season with an 82-74 victory over the Iona Gaels on Sunday night in The Pit.
Jaelen House led the way for New Mexico with 22 points and five assists. KJ Jenkins added 17 points off the bench with four made three-pointers.
The win was special for UNM head coach Richard Pitino, who defeated his dad, Rick, for the first time in three matchups between the two.
“I don’t know if he wants to go to dinner tonight,” UNM’s Pitino said after the game. “I’m supposed to take him to dinner. You have to give him a little grace period because he’s not good to get right after games.”
The Lobos ran out to a 17-point first half lead on the backs of Jenkins’ shooting and Morris Udeze’s inside work. The Gaels cut it to eight in the closing seconds of the half before Jenkins hit a buzzer beating three that pushed the Lobo lead back to 11 at 44-33 heading to the break.
In the second half the Lobos looked poised to route the visitors, building a lead of 15 points early before Iona began to chip away slowly.
Walter Clayton Jr. hit a three with 2:51 to play to get the Gaels within three before Udeze found a cutting Javonte Johnson for a layup that put the game out of reach. House added four points down the stretch to secure the win.
“The one piece of advice for this team, don’t embrace it,” the elder Pitino said about UNM’s start. “Get better. Take what you did wrong and get better. Because as quickly as you get to climbing that mountain, you get knocked right off it.”
The Lobos were unable to crack the AP Top 25, or the Coaches Poll this week, despite the quad two victory over Iona.
New Mexico will have a quick turnaround from this one as they will welcome in Prairie View A&M to The Pit on Tuesday night.
The Panthers will come into the contest with a 4-7 record and mired in a five-game losing streak.
Guard Will Douglas is the leading scorer for the Panthers at 14.8 points per game. He had 21 points in their last game which was against Montana on Saturday.
With a win in that game the Lobos will be off to their best start in a decade at 12-0.