The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team came away with a 93-78 victory against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Wednesday night at Dreamstyle Arena, aka The Pit. UNM (3-0, 0-0 MWC) remains undefeated, as its high-powered offense once again led the way.
Senior guard JaQuan Lyle opened the game with a three-pointer but was taken out after committing five turnovers in the first five minutes. The first half was a back-and-forth affair — Green Bay seized the lead with a 15-6 run, which UNM answered with a 19-6 run of their own.
The game’s opening period was marred with sloppy play by both teams. The Lobos and Green Bay each recorded double-digit turnovers, with New Mexico putting up a total of 13 and Green Bay recording ten. Despite Lyle’s early struggles and frustration with the frequent whistles from referees John Higgings and Marques Pettigrew, UNM eventually entered the second half with a 49-43 advantage.
For Lyle, UNM’s lead guard, Wednesday night was a tale of two halves. The Lobos steadily pulled away as Lyle exploded for 20 points in the second half, eventually finishing with 31 points total and five assists while committing zero turnovers after halftime.
“(Lyle is) a kid that hasn’t played in two years — there’s probably a lot of emotions going on when he’s out there, good and bad," UNM head coach Paul Weir said after the game. "I think sometimes when it starts to go in a little bit of a downward spiral, halftime is the greatest thing we can have — hit reset and get back to a good place."
Junior forward Makuach Maluach turned in another 16-point performance on six-of-seven shooting from the field, continuing an impressive shooting stretch to start the season. Over the first three games, Maluach has shot over 76% from the field and 62.5% from behind the arc. After last season’s shooting woes, Maluach’s resurgence is a welcome sight for the Lobos.
"He’s incredible," Weir said of Maluach. "Quite honestly, he’s probably been our MVP. He’s our most valuable player when it really comes down to it right now."
Maluach has gotten off to his hot start while managing to stay under the radar, as UNM has five players averaging at least ten points per game through the first three games of the season.
"That’s how I like it, to be honest," Maluach said. "I don't want to be the flashy guy. I just like to play defense and knock down open shots."
Despite consistent issues with defense and turnovers, UNM’s efficient shooting thus far has showcased the deep offensive talent on this year’s roster. Going into Wednesday night’s game, New Mexico led the entire nation in field goal percentage, and the Lobo offense has clearly been the driving force behind Weir’s first 3-0 start since joining UNM in 2017.
Weir has not yet deployed the full-court press defensive scheme that he said would become a prominent piece of UNM’s attack this season. Consequently, the Lobo defense has gotten off to a slow start, giving up at least 70 points to each of its three opponents.
"I’m trying to give this team room to grow and try to find themselves," Weir said. "We see internally the ceiling that this team has... We’re still trying to find our way a little bit. It doesn’t look smooth — there’s some rough patches here and there."
Nonetheless, UNM remains undefeated and is tied with Utah State and San Diego State atop the Mountain West Conference. Looking ahead, the Lobos will look to continue their winning streak against McNeese State at home on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m.
Joe Rull is the multimedia editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com and on Twitter @RullJoe