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Men's basketball: Lobos ground Air Force for the win

 The University of New Mexico men's basketball team defeated the Air Force Academy Falcons 81-73 on Friday, Jan. 27. The Lobos now have an overall record of 19-3 and are 6-3 in conference play.

The Lobos had a steady lead in the first half but gave it up early in the second half. UNM was able to rally back behind some stellar play from their guards and the crowd keeping players engaged.

The Pit has become a fortress: the Lobos have only lost one game at home this season. Friday night's game had a near sold out crowd with 15,143 in attendance. Fans were at the stadium over an hour before tipoff and were still in the parking lots after the game and media interviews. Leaving the media tunnel, many people could be seen waiting with pens in hand for a chance of an autograph from some of the players.

Jamal Mashburn Jr. led the team in scoring with 24 points and continues to exploit defenses with his mid-range jump shot. Jaelen House had a full stat sheet with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals. Morris Udeze had 15 points and eight rebounds. He also drew nine fouls, almost single-handedly fouling out two players.

For Air Force, Rytis Petraitis had an excellent game with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Ethan Taylor scored 17 points and made three of his four 3-pointers.

Udeze scored the first points of the game, and Javonté Johnson followed it up making a 3-pointer off of a House steal. Jake Hiedbreder put the Falcons on the scoreboard with a jump shot. Lobos were up 7-4 at the first media timeout with 15:42 left in the first half.

Out of the timeout, the Lobos forced a steal; House ran the floor and was fouled on his made layup. On the next possession, he made a 3-pointer and then followed it up with a fadeaway jump shot. House scored 8 of the Lobos’ 10-0 run which prompted the Air Force to call a timeout.

Beau Becker made a 3-pointer for the Falcons out of the timeout, but KJ Jenkins responded with a 3-pointer of his own. The Air Force went on a 7-0 run, but Donovan Dent drove the basket for a layup and then forced a turnover on defense.

Mashburn made a mid-range jump shot and was fouled on the next possession. After his first made free throw, the Falcons were called for a technical foul. Mashburn made both technical free throws and his final free throw, for a total of four straight free throws. The Lobos were up 40-29 with 2:35 in the first half.

House made a 3-pointer to put UNM up 43-34 to end the half. The Lobos backcourt were already in double digit scoring at the end of the half with 12 for Mashburn and 11 for House.

The Falcons offense was off to a great start in the second half, going on an 8-0 run that ended with House making two free throws to preserve the lead. Udeze had a block that led to a media timeout with the Lobos up 47-44 with 15:42 left in the game.

Out of the timeout, the Falcons took the lead with a Jeffery Mills layup. The Lobos went on a 3:36 long scoring drought which allowed a 7-0 run from the Falcons. The Lobos were now losing 53-49. 

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Allick grabbed a rebound from a missed shot and layed it in to tie the game. Udeze scored on three straight possessions, but the Lobos were struggling on defense. This was until House stole the ball and got a layup to give the Lobos the lead 60-58. House then again went from basket to basket for another layup, but Air Force responded with a Taylor 3-pointer to put them up 63-62. UNM called a timeout with 6:38 left in the game.

The Lobos guards took over the game: Mashburn made back-to-back jump shots to take back the lead. House had another steal that led to a layup. Mashburn drove the lane for a layup. House stole the ball and passed to Jenkins for a 3-pointer. Air Force called a timeout with 1:38 left in the game down 76-70.

Mashburn ran to the basket for a layup, but Taylor hit a 3-pointer; Air Force called another timeout down 78-73 with 20.1 seconds left in the game. The Lobos forced a missed 3-pointer, and Mashburn made two free throws. House then stole the ball to end the game. The Lobos won 81-73.

After the game, Mashburn said Air Force was a good team that demonstrated how competitive the conference is.

"They're a very great group and they work well together. Like you said, they just kept going back to the same thing that was working: doesn't matter if they were down, they just kept going … This conference is dangerous. We can't have nights with lulls. We have to stay on an even keel and go back to the gym and get better," Mashburn said.

Head coach Richard Pitino said in his press conference that he anticipated Air Force would give them trouble. Pitino also said he still can't get over the crowd in The Pit.

"Terrific win. It kind of went the way I thought it would go. I think Air Force is much improved. They were really running their stuff to perfection in the second half … The building was amazing. It's getting to a point where I sound like a broken record on how much I appreciate our fans. The worst thing in the world I want to do is let these fans down. When they pack this place in with over 15,000 on a Friday night, it's amazing. We needed to find a way to get it done," Pitino said.

The Lobos next play in Logan, Utah against Utah State University on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @thomasbulger10

Thomas Bulger

 Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @thomasbulger10 

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