The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team played the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels at The Pit Saturday, March 5. The Lobos won 76-67 behind a team-high 27 points from Jaelen House. The last time these two teams played was Jan. 11 in Las Vegas where the Lobos lost 85-56.

UNLV is led by Bryce Hamilton, who leads the Mountain West Conference in scoring with an average of 21.8 points per game. Hamilton also averages 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

The Lobos were able to get to an early lead with Jamal Mashburn Jr. exploding out of the gate, scoring the Lobos’ first 10 points and pushing the lead to 10-5 with 15:08 left in the first half. UNM went on a 13-0 run from 10:14 to 6:58 led by House, who had a 3-point basket and four free throws.



The Lobos suffered a scoring drought toward the end of the half, but that was ended by a Javonté Johnson free throw with 27 seconds left in the half. They were able to stay competitive during the near five-minute drought, though, by playing solid defense, causing a turnover and forcing UNLV to take tough shots. The Runnin’ Rebels only scored 6 points in those five minutes. The Lobos finished the half up 38-22.

Mashburn did not miss a beat after halftime, grabbing a layup pushing the Lobos lead to 40-22. A UNLV trio of Hamilton, Justin Webster and Royce Hamm Jr. made a push in the second half, though. Webster hit back to back threes with 10:51 seconds left in the game, cutting UNM’s lead to 54-45.

Hamilton’s shots started to go in after a cold first half, shooting 6-15 in the second half and scoring 20 points. Hamilton shot poorly from three in the second half, however, creating empty possessions for UNLV and allowing the Lobos to hold on to their lead. Hamilton ended the half shooting 2-8 from three. With 1:12 left in the game, he managed to finally hit a 3, making the game 68-65, Lobos.

House hit a clutch jumper to put the Lobos up 5 with 31 seconds left. Hamilton missed a 3 and UNLV was forced to foul. Mashburn, House and Johnson hit clutch free throws, and two Hamilton misses sealed UNLV’s fate.

Senior Jordan Arroyo ended up playing 18 minutes and helped pick up the slack in the frontcourt after starter Jay Allen-Tovar left the game early with an injury. Arroyo had 3 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Saquan Singleton was the primary defender on UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton and helped hold him to 8-22 shooting from the field. Singleton also had 9 points, going 2-2 from the free-throw line and making a 3-pointer, which he credited to his uncle, who flew in for the game. When asked about how he felt in his last game in The Pit, he thanked  the fans for pushing him through the game. 

“These fans are special; they’re really special,” Singleton said. “They got us through the game. When UNLV made a run, (the fans) made us get through it. I just thank the fans, man, for this whole journey.”

Pitino also thanked the fans in his postgame interview for sticking with the team through a rebuilding year. He also talked about how he was 6-3 on senior nights going into the game and said it was important to him to get this win. Pitino said he is very excited about the Lobos’ momentum and energy going into the conference tournament.

UNM starts play in the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas against the Nevada Wolf Pack on Wednesday, March 9. The last time they played Nevada was Jan. 1, where they lost 70-79. The Wolf Pack will enter the game off of a four-game losing streak.

Thomas Bulger is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @thomasbulger10