Lobo men’s basketball left El Paso, Texas the same way they entered it on Saturday evening — struggling to find its shot and winless away from home.
New Mexico fell to 3-5 on the season, falling behind after some long stretches of the game without making a field goal. UTEP used those moments to capitalize and build a lead, eventually walking away with an 88-76 decision.
The Lobos have really struggled to knock down shots away from their home court at Dreamstyle Arena. The team has shot a healthy 49.7 percent from the floor at home, but that success rate has plummeted to 36.8 percent when playing outside of Albuquerque.
Saturday night wasn’t the worst shooting night for the Lobos this season, but their 37.5 percent shooting performance was nowhere near good enough to keep pace with the Miners, who shot 53.7 percent — well about their season average.
UTEP had five players finish with a double-digit scoring night, led by senior guard Omega Harris. He scored a game-high of 28 points on a very efficient 9-for-11 shooting night — banging home all four of his 3-point attempts and going a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
New Mexico scored first after senior forward/guard Sam Logwood hit a jump shot on the first possession of the game, but that was the only time the Lobos held a lead on the night.
Logwood paced the Lobos with 22 points, but the rest of the team combined to shoot under 30 percent for the game, making just 13 shots along the way.
UTEP had plenty of good looks at the basket, seemingly getting into the paint with relative ease and sinking five 3-pointers in the first half. The Miners had been hitting an average of just six made shots from long range per game coming into Saturday’s matchup.
Despite missing their first four 3-point attempts, the Lobos and Miners essentially played to a dead heat over the first several minutes of the game. The score was all knotted up at seven points before UTEP stuck a couple of jumpers to lead 11-7 at the first media timeout.
Logwood made it a 16-15 after making another jumper with 12:23 remaining in the first half, but UTEP rattled off a 13-2 run to take the reigns after making six straight baskets during that span to move in front 29-17. The only offense UNM offered in response was a pair of Anthony Mathis free throws.
The Lobos continued to compound the problem by connecting on 9-of-25 from the floor in the first half and found themselves still looking up at a double-digit deficit at halftime, with the Miners holding a 45-31 lead.
That narrative continued in the second half as UNM struggled to string together enough offense to make a serious run. UTEP had been maintaining its lead early in the half, but New Mexico went on a 13-4 run to pull to within five points about midway through the second half.
Logwood hit a 3-pointer at the 12:07 mark to start the rally, followed by another long-range shot from Anthony Mathis. Logwood then finished at the rim while absorbing a foul for an old-fashioned 3-point play, and the deficit was cut to 61-56 after a pair of McNeal free throws with 10:15 to play.
But then the offense flatlined again.
New Mexico went scoreless over the next five minutes, missing five straight shots and committing four turnovers as UTEP pushed the advantage back up to a 15-point bulge. Troy Simons finally broke the drought with a 3-pointer with 5:13 left in the game.
His long ball was the lone field goal for another stretch that saw the Lobos fail to connect again on a field goal until the final minute of the game, when the outcome was pretty much already decided.
A Mathis 3-pointer cut the UTEP lead to nine points with 37 seconds to play, but UTEP stepped up to sink its free throws to thwart any potential comeback and preserved the 88-76 victory.
The Miner triumph ended a six-game losing streak and denied the Lobos a chance at a road win, putting UNM’s record at 0-4 away from home. The team will get another crack at it on Wednesday, Dec. 6 when it travels to Colorado to face the Buffalos.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.