The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team won their first conference play win against the San José State University Spartans 86-70 Friday, Jan. 27 at The Pit. This win broke a seven-game losing streak and brought the team to 1-7 in conference and 8-13 overall.

The Spartans were also winless in conference play, and, like the Lobos, are in a rebuilding year with a new head coach and multiple new players. The Spartans offense gets 41.1% of their points from three-point makes, the 15th-highest percentage in the country, according to KenPom. UNM head coach Richard Pitino said before the game that Spartans guard Omari Moore would need to be a focus of the Lobos defense.

UNM got off to a quick start as soon as they won the opening tip, scoring on their first four possessions and keeping the lead for the rest of the game. The scoring was evenly distributed throughout the first half — seven Lobos scored and four of them scored more than five points — and even though he wasn’t able to make a basket, Birima Seck was energetic, going after rebounds and running the floor. 



The Spartans were just not able to shoot the ball well enough as a team to keep up with UNM in the first half. As expected, San José State shot the three-ball often and, by the end of the half, 16 of their 32 shots were from three-point range. When that’s the case, a team needs to shoot pretty well to stay in a game, and the Spartans’ abysmal 3-16 three-point shooting had a lot to do with them going into halftime down 43-32.

Pitino elected to play the second half with practically only one lineup: Jamal Mashburn Jr., Jaelen House, Javonté Johnson, Jay Allen-Tovar and K.J. Jenkins (only eight minutes went to any other player).

The Spartans started attacking the rim much more aggressively and shot 12-16 on two-point attempts. UNM was able to counter with impressive shooting of their own, including a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line. The Lobos weren’t able to pull away completely, but their lead was never less than eight points, and they were able to win 86-70 without too much stress.

Jaelen House was sensational in what was his best game as a point guard. He scored 18 points, got seven rebounds and tallied 13 assists. The last time an NCAA Division I player got at least 18-7-13 was over a year ago. After the game, House said he felt that his team had been due for a win.

“I mean just praise the Lord honestly. I’ve been praying all the time; that’s all I do is pray, so all I can do is give thanks to him,” House said, talking about the win.

Mashburn said the team was thrilled to finally get a conference win in The Pit.

“We’ve let these fans down plenty of times so we’re just happy we were able to get one,” Mashburn said. “We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to get better at, as far as on the defensive side still, but this was definitely a step in the right direction. I’m glad we didn’t go the whole month of January without a win.”

Looking forward, Pitino said the Lobos’ approach needs to be the same and that a focus on the record is no more important than it was before their win.

Pitino said the Lobos are a good offensive team that needs to still improve their defense, but said the players' attitudes through a tough stretch of losses are what has kept them ready for a win like this.

“They’ve been ready to play almost every game, and that’s not as easy as you think,” Pitino said.

After their game on Monday, Jan. 31, the Lobos have a break until they travel to Colorado to compete against the United States Air Force Academy on Saturday, Feb. 5.

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