The New Mexico Lobos split this past week’s games with Wyoming and San Jose State.
On Tuesday night, the Lobos were without star guard Jaelen House again, and it showed with an uninspired effort in a 70-56 loss to the visiting Cowboys.
Hunter Maldonado poured in 20 points for Wyoming in the upset win, which was the Cowboys’ first in Albuquerque since the 2015-16 season.
For the Lobos, the loss was their fourth straight, and put them firmly outside of everyone’s NCAA Tournament projections, despite being the last team in the Nation with an undefeated record.
The season got better on Friday night when the Lobos visited San Jose State and welcomed House back into the lineup.
Playing more inspired basketball, the Lobos dominated the Spartans over the final 32 minutes of the game. The two teams traded the lead until with 11:53 to go in the first half, when the game took the turn.
Down 15-14, New Mexico’s KJ Jenkins would bury a jumper to put UNM up 16-15, a lead that the Lobos would not relinquish. Powered by great shooting, and not so decent shooting by the Spartans, New Mexico exploded to take a 50-31 halftime lead.
The Lobos kept the energy up in the second half to pull away to a 96-68 win over SJSU.
Morris Udeze led the way with 31 points and 12 rebounds and Jamal Mashburn Jr. added 27 points in what was win number 20 on the season for New Mexico.
House only scored seven points, but his constant, in your face defense led to him getting five steals to go with the five assists he also dished out.
“I think everybody was back in their roles that they’re used to,” Lobo coach Richard Pitino told the media after the game. “We were so much more in sync.”
Following both contests the Lobos are now 20-7 on the season, and 7-7 in the Mountain West Conference which is good enough to be fifth in the standings.
The 20 wins is the best since the 2013-14 season, the last time the program went to the NCAA Tournament. Though the Lobos will need something short of a miracle to make the tournament this season, 20 wins is a marked improvement over the last several seasons for the program. Which is something that New Mexico fans should be happy about.
This upcoming week the Lobos will have two games to contest. First, they will travel to Boise to take on the Broncos of Boise State. That game will be Wednesday night and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 with a tip at 8:30 p.m.
Then on Saturday the Lobos will host the Aztecs of San Diego State in The Pit. That game will tipoff at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time and will be shown on CBS Sports Network.
The Aztecs and Broncos are first and second in the MWC standings respectively heading into this week.