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Spartans hang around until Lobos pull away

Lobos’ defensive pressure forces 18 turnovers

SJS center Adrame Diongue with one of four blocks against New Mexico, Provident Credit Union Event Center, January 24, 2024
photo by: Vic Aquino

25th-ranked New Mexico (17-3, 5-2 MW) came out firing on all cylinders over San Jose State (8-11, 1-5 MW) easing out to a 95-75 win on the Spartans home floor.

It was all Lobos from start to finish, though San Jose kept things within striking distance for most of the game until the last six minutes.

From the get-go, New Mexico’s speed and athleticism kept the Spartans at bay; even with the Spartans actually being taller and longer overall.

New Mexico’s vaunted pressure defense in the end proved to be the major difference forcing 18 turnovers leading to 25 points.

“You can’t let an opponent run their offense off your offense,” said Spartan head coach Tim Miles on the turnover disparity. “When you look at the whole story of the game, our turnovers were the difference.”

Considered one of the best backcourts in college basketball, if not the best, New Mexico’s Jamaal Mashburn, Jr. and Jaelen House are NBA-fast and always ready to pounce.

“It’s disruptive and chaotic,” said Miles on the Lobos’ defensive pressure. “How do you handle that? You pass and catch; keep reversing, don’t over-dribble and keep them in front of us.”

The Spartans in the first-half felt the affects of an overpowering New Mexico defense, though were seemingly acclimating.

First-half maybe

The Lobos started fast pulling out to a 13-5 lead in the first five minutes. SJS’ Tibet Gorener and MJ Amey led the offense with 12 points and 11 points, respectively, in the first-half.

Gorener didn’t score in the second half.

“I didn’t really notice how they were guarding me,” said Gorener. “Other guys were open and I was open, but they knocked their shots down. As long as we get good looks on offense, it really doesn’t matter who scores.”

Gorener added, ”I had to guard a pretty good player in Mashburn too, so I also had to focus on that.”

Amey’s running half-court shot to end the half saw the Spartans down 43-32.

At that point, SJS also had no free throws and only committed seven turnovers; all the while shooting 37% to New Mexico’s 49%.

Second-half started dry

Perhaps there was a chance, as the Lobos came out flat to start the next half.

Not until almost two minutes in, two and-one opportunities saw a six point flurry. Mashburn was fouled on a made 20-footer leading to SJS center Adrame Diongue’s and-one on a drive to the basket, though the Lobos were still up by 11 points.

Diongue had the best Spartan sequence of the half.

Seven-foot Diongue’s two of four blocks on the game led to two breakaway scores followed by an alley-oop dunk; then an assist to Amey’s dunk 14 minutes in, but still 11 points out.

Six minutes left in the game, the Spartans 6-0 run got them to within nine (75-66), but that would be it.

Backbreaker 3s by House and more Spartan turnovers led to the 20-point deficit and the final 95-75 score.

“To not keep them in front of us and execute the game plan is disappointing and why we lost,” said Miles. “Consider at one time, we were number one in the country in running our offense without a steal - credit to New Mexico.”

Amey finishing the night with 24 hard-earned points rounded out the night.

“I always tell people our record doesn’t show who we are,” said Amey. “Though tonight is one of the first nights we see a blowout, we know at the end of the day that we’re a team that people fear when we play the right way.”

This Saturday night at home against another tough team in UNLV - we’ll see how right the Spartans have gotten.