The New Mexico Lobos ended the week 2-0, after wins over 16th ranked Utah State and Air Force.
New Mexico used 26 points from Nelly Junior Joseph, forced 14 turnovers, and blocked 10 shots to take care of Utah State in Albuquerque by a 99-86 final on Tuesday night. Guards Donovan Dent went for 15 points and a career-high 14 assists, and Jaelen House had 14 points. All five Lobo starters scored in double figures.
“Donovan again, and those middle ball screens, he was finding guys,” New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said. “Fourteen assists is pretty amazing. I thought offensively we were about as good as it gets and as efficient as we’ve been all year.”
The Lobos seized control early in the first half and used their swarming defense to produce fast breaks and wide-open shots as they weren’t really challenged from about the 13-minute mark in the half when Dent made a three-pointer to push the Lobo lead to 20-12.
With that win the Lobos pushed their Mountain West Conference record to 3-2 and moved to within a game of the Aggies in the standings.
On Saturday the Lobos got their first road conference win of the season with an 85-66 win over Air Force in Colorado Springs.
In that one, JT Toppin led the way with 26 points and 15 rebounds. The freshman has six double-doubles on the season and was three rebounds away from two more double-doubles.
In Saturday’s contest, UNM was a little sluggish to get going, falling behind 4-0 and later 12-9 with 13:30 left in the first half before a 13-0 run gave the Lobos a 22-12 lead.
The Air Force’s offense went cold after as the Lobos pushed their lead to 20 at the half, 44-24.
In the second half, the Lobos had it on cruise control, as the Falcons never got closer than 13.
Jamal Mashburn Jr. added 13 points for UNM, who is now 4-2 in the MWC and 16-3 overall.
The win is now New Mexico’s third win in a row, and they are still within one game of Utah State for first place as they head into the new week.
The Lobos will have two games this upcoming week. The first will be a road visit with San Jose State on Wednesday night before finishing with a home game against Nevada.
The Spartans are tied for 9th in conference at 1-4. Three of their four MWC losses were by three points or less. This is a team that is literally eight points away from being 4-1 in conference, so the Lobos cannot be taking them lightly. Not to mention that the Lobos have only won one of their last four games in San Jose. Not the recipe for success, but we will see.
Tipoff for the Lobos and Spartans on Wednesday night will be at 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time and will be on CBS Sports Network.
On Saturday night the Lobos will play host to former head coach Steve Alford and the Nevada Wolf Pack. As of this writing the Wolf Pack are on a two-game losing streak but will play two games before meeting UNM.
The Wolf Pack did start the season 15-1 before losing to Boise State and San Diego State but will have a golden opportunity to get back in the race with games against Wyoming and Colorado State before visiting the Lobos.
Tipoff for New Mexico and Nevada on the 27th will be at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time and can be seen on Fox Sports 1.