The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team lost to Boise State University 71-63 at The Pit on Saturday, Jan. 15. UNM remains without a conference win after four games.

Head coach Richard Pitino, who was back on the sideline for the first time since contracting COVID-19, made it clear why UNM lost.

“They are bigger, they are stronger (and) they are older for sure,” Pitino said. “But we have to be scrappier, dirtier and meaner, especially when you are as undermanned as we are.”



Where the Lobos are undermanned is at the center position, and they more than likely will be for the remainder of their season. Since the start of the 2021-22 season, UNM has lost Valdir Manuel, Gethro Muscadin and Emmanuel Kuac, all inside presences expected to play the majority of minutes at center. This has left Pitino with freshman centers Sebastian Forsling and Birima Seck, both of whom Pitino has said might have redshirted, and Jay Allen-Tovar, who is undersized to be playing center.

This would be a tough situation for UNM against any team, but especially so against Boise State, the 15th-tallest team in the country in average height, according to KenPom. Predictably, UNM got destroyed in the offensive rebounding battle 25-3, a stat Forsling talked about after the game.

“I need to take more responsibility as well,” Forsling said. “At the end of the day, I can’t let a guy have 10 offensive rebounds. It’s just (about) being tougher than the opponent.”

While UNM was basically unable to rebound against Boise State, they were able to mitigate the problem with scrambling team defense and active hands. Five Lobos recorded at least one block, and Allen-Tovar had three. Boise State was often forced to work deep into the shot clock and had two shot clock violations in the first half.

Another damning disparity for the Lobos was in personal fouls, where they amassed 28 to Boise State’s 13. Some of that difference was because the Lobos were forced to foul at the end of the game to buy themselves time to try and cut the lead. Even if we were to discount the last three minutes of regulation, UNM still had more fouls (19-10) and had to play much of the second half with Boise State in the bonus.

In the first half, it was Allen-Tovar who kept UNM going in the scoring department with eight points, though UNM still posted their lowest point total for a half this season (22). Jamal Mashburn Jr. shot a less-than-stellar 4-12 from the field for 10 points before fouling out late in the game. Jaelen House came on late after struggling early in the game, scoring 14 of his 21 points in the last five minutes, as did K.J. Jenkins, who made his last four shots to finish shooting 5-11 from the field.

The good news for UNM is that, now having faced the best rebounding team in the Mountain West Conference, they may have put their biggest demon behind them, though Lobos fans shouldn’t expect the rebounding woes to disappear. UNM plays two away games next week: one at Colorado State University on Wednesday, Jan. 19, where they will face one of the nation’s top players, David Roddy, and the other at the University of Wyoming on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy