Behind blistering second half shooting, lead by Troy Simons’ 24 points, and 39 points off of turnovers, the New Mexico men’s basketball team overpowered Nebraska-Omaha, 103-71 on Tuesday night at Dreamstyle Arena, aka The Pit.
The Lobos started the game strong, setting a fast pace of play for the Mavericks to try to match. University of New Mexico forward Sam Logwood put the first points of the game on the board, followed shortly by more points from the Lobos, four points were scored by forward Joe Furstinger. By the first media timeout five minutes into the game, the Lobos jumped out to a lead of 8-2 over Omaha.
The first half had the crowd on their feet as the Lobos performed and had plays that left fans cheering. After Antino Jackson knocked the ball away from the Mavericks, Simons picked it up and shot a three for the Lobos.
Later in the half, after a missed attempt by Chris McNeal, Jachai Simmons came up for the rebound and dunked, gaining an exciting two points for the team. With eight minutes remaining in the half, the Lobos continued to lead Omaha by seven points, 24-17.
The Mavericks put the Lobos on notice and had the crowd on the edge of its seat as they gained their first lead of the game, but the tension eased after a 3-point shot from Simmons put the Lobos back in the lead. With three minutes and 36 seconds left in the half, the Lobos were up 33-29.
Omaha kept the game close, putting pressure on the Lobos and gaining an extra five points before the half was over. Going into halftime, the Lobos only lead by one point, 35-34. Despite the close score at the end of the half, Coach Weir expressed that having a close game makes the team play better and helps them improve on their game.
The Lobos found their shooting stroke in the second half and were able run away from Omaha. In the second half of the game, the Lobos scored 68 points. A Joe Furstinger layup with 17:17 to play in the half gave the Lobos the lead, and they never relinquished it.
But Omaha hadn’t run out of gas quite yet. During the first ten minutes of the half, the Mavericks were, for the most part, able to hang with UNM. They were losing, but kept the deficit under 10 points until the final 10 minutes of the game.
A McNeal 3-pointer with 9:21 to play pushed the lead to 11, and the Lobos were off to the races against a worn-out Omaha squad. Joe Furstinger also played his part mentally, in addition to his 11 points and eight rebounds, as he started a conversation with Omaha’s Daniel Meyer that led to a technical foul called on Meyer.
The Lobos’ fast style of play was starting to catch up with Omaha, Something that wasn’t lost on Jackson.
“The only thing I noticed is people started putting their hands on their knees. You started seeing souls huffing and puffing,” Jackson said.
Jackson and his teammates took advantage of that huffing and puffing and began to light up the scoresheet. After only shooting 20 percent from three (4-of-20) and 34 percent from the field (14-of-41) in the first half. The Lobos found their stroke in the second half, shooting 55 percent from the field and 68 percent from beyond the arc in the second half.
With just over four minutes left, Simons put an exclamation mark on the victory for the Lobos. He connected on a 3-pointer, one of six he made during the game, and followed it up with a steal in the full court press and an emphatic dunk that extended the Lobos’ lead to 28. The play forced Omaha to call a timeout that they didn’t have, which resulted in a technical foul issued and the Lobos getting two free throws, which Sam Logwood converted on the other side to push the lead to 30.
With about two minutes to play in the game, New Mexico put in Mike Mondragon, a walk-on who is not listed on the official roster currently available at golobos.com. At that point in the game, the Lobos had a 34-point lead, and Mondragon played his part as the team’s human victory cigar.
After the game, Weir talked about how wearing Omaha down is a big part of what allows them to play their second half style.
“We talked about it at halftime; what we’re trying to do is wear people down in a myriad of ways, not just with our defense but with our offense as well,” Weir said. “When our offensive is playing at a really good pace, even if we aren’t scoring, but hopefully we’re wearing them down so we’re able to go on some runs later in the game, whenever they happen to come.”
Runs were a crucial part of what New Mexico did in the final ten minutes of the game. They outscored Omaha 35-17 in that time, including runs of 11-1 over 52 seconds, and a 13-2 run over a span of 3:16.
Next up, the Lobos take on New Mexico State on Friday, Nov. 17 in coach Weir’s return to Las Cruces, where he served as the head coach last season. It is the first of two matchups between the two schools this season.
Cameron Goeldner is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.
Alanie Rael is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers men's and women's skiing but also contributes content for football and hockey. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @AllyRael.