Conference play for the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team went according to plan: with a win over visiting Air Force, 87-58, to open up Mountain West action.
The Lobos (6-8, 1-0 MW) struggled early on—especially most of the first half—though they were able to claim a double-digit victory at home.
UNM saw a plethora of double digit scorers, even in the unlikeliest of places. Junior Jachai Simmons, who had a ton of highlight reel dunks, scored a game-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, while also hitting 3-of-4 3-point attempts (all in the second half).
Junior guard Dane Kuiper had 13 points, senior forward Joe Furstinger had 12 points. Junior Anthony Mathis had 11 points and senior guards Antino Jackson and Sam Logwood each had 10 points.
Despite shooting poorly in the first half, the Lobos ended up shooting 50 percent, overall, in the game.
Things started off slow in the first half, with Air Force (6-7, 0-1 MW) taking nearly two minutes to take a 2-0 lead, while it took UNM nearly five minutes to get its first points on the board, on 1-of-2 made Furstinger free throws.
Shortly thereafter, the Lobos made their first field goal of the game on a 3-pointer from Jackson. The shot also marked UNM’s first lead of the game.
For the most part, the first half was stale. Both teams struggled shooting wise, with the Lobos shooting 37.5 percent in the frame and the Falcons shooting an even worse 32 percent from the field.
The Lobos, however, were always one step ahead. Halfway through the frame, UNM got its first double digit lead, going up by 11 points, 20-9, on a dunk from junior guard Jachai Simmons.
By the end of the first half, UNM got out to a 16-point lead, 36-20, with the help of junior guard Dane Kuiper, Jackson and senior forward Joe Furstinger, who all had eight points.
Air Force got out of the gates first, again, to open up the second half of action, cutting the Lobos’ lead to 14 points.
But UNM shot lights out in the frame, hitting 63.3 percent of its shots.
The Lobos’ first 20-point lead came five minutes into the half on a layup from junior guard Chris McNeal, to put them up 44-24.
Towards the end of the frame, UNM opened up on an 8-0 run capped by back-to-back Simmons 3-pointers, to put the Lobos up 73-45 with less than five minutes in regulation.
By the end of the game, the Lobos got their lead up to a 29-point margin, beating the Falcons, 87-58, at home.
The Falcons outrebounded UNM 39-35, but the Lobos’ high-pressure defense forced 17 Air Force turnovers, which led to 17 UNM points off of those mishaps.
Up next for the Lobos is a 3 p.m. matchup with Nevada in Reno on Saturday, Dec. 30. The game will be streamed live on AT&T Sportsnet.
Matthew Narvaiz is a senior sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.