The University of New Mexico Lobo men’s basketball team defeated the Colorado State University Pueblo Thunderwolves 85-52 in their exhibition match on Saturday, Oct. 29. The team looked strong with their new lineup that hopes to fix some of the issues that plagued them last season.
Jaelen House led the Lobos in scoring with 20 points; he also had three assists along with a steal and only played for 16 minutes. Jamal Mashburn Jr. got the team off to a hot start and set the tone for the game; he had 11 points.
The two new transfers in the starting lineup, Morris Udeze and Josiah Allick, had an immediate impact on the team. They scored 9 and 10 points respectively and helped UNM win the rebound battle with a combined five offensive rebounds — something the team was lacking last season.
Freshman Donovan Dent came off the bench and led the team in minutes for the game. He had an efficient 16 points on 6-11 shooting. Dent also had seven rebounds and a block.
Mashburn Jr. hit a mid range jump shot to start the game; House hit a 3-pointer shortly after. Thunderwolf Lian Ramiro hit back-to-back 3-pointers, but Mashburn Jr. hit another mid range jump shot at the baseline. Elijah Moleon had a layup for CSU to take the lead, though, leaving the Lobos down 8-7 at the first media timeout.
Out of the timeout, Javonté Johnson missed a 3-pointer, but Allick got the rebound and was fouled on his layup. He later grabbed another offensive rebound for a layup. Udeze then had his first point as a Lobo by bullying his way into the paint for a layup.
Dent had a great sequence coming into the game: he got his first points by driving the lane and shaking his defender. He got up to contest a jump shot and made his free throws after getting fouled on another drive to the basket.
UNM weathered a 3-minute scoring drought by missing eight straight shots, but only gave up six points in that stretch by playing a switching defense that protected the three point line but gave up two dunks. With the starting lineup back in, the offense exploded.
House hit back-to-back threes, Mashburn Jr. hit a jump shot, Udeze made a 3-pointer and Mashburn Jr. scored on a fast break for the Lobos to go on a 13-0 run in just 2:09. The Lobos were up 39-21 with 4:30 left in the first half.
At the end of the half, the Lobos were up 49-25. In the first half, the Lobos let defense turn into offense, scoring 11 points off of turnovers. The Lobos also had six steals and two blocks. They were also resilient on offense getting nine offensive rebounds, but that led to just 5 second-chance points.
The starters did not lose any momentum going into the second half: House had an athletic layup and followed it with a 3-pointer. Udeze missed a layup but got his own rebound to secure a bucket. Allick had a layup to then put the Lobos up by 30.
The Lobos were up 63-33 when a media timeout was called. The Thunderwolves started a full court press out of the timeout to try and slow the offense down. The two teams went through a scoring drought, but K.J. Jenkins made a three pointer just seconds into the shot clock.
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Morris then scored 5 straight points for the Thundercats, but Birima Seck had a layup to end UNM’s scoring drought. With 55 seconds left in the game, local freshman Mac Manzanares was subbed onto the court to play his first game as a Lobo. The game ended, and UNM won 85-53.
Head coach Richard Pitino was excited to be back in The Pit and to see fans back in the stands. He also talked about the state of the program going into opening night.
“There’s just something about playing in front of fans and just having that game day routine is great … Now it all gets real, and I like the team we put together. I have no idea how they are going to handle adversity and all the highs and lows of that go with a season. But that’s kind of the new world we live in with the transfer portal: we got to figure it out. But if we got a healthy group, I like our chances,” Pitino said.
Mashburn Jr. talked about the team’s mentality going into the game and what the team, and himself, can gain from playing in an exhibition game.
“As a team, we wanted to just work on the principles — just focus on the things we need to focus on for those bigger games, those conference play and those nonconference play games. Being in the gaps, boxing out, doing all the little things we need to do to win games. And you know, personally, just getting out and running, just playing in The Pit — I was super excited to just play with fans and see the fans and all that," Mashburn Jr. said. "To see the support was just so much fun.”
The Lobos next play Southern Utah University on Monday, Nov. 7 at The Pit
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thomasbulger10