On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the University of New Mexico men's basketball defeated the Fresno State University Bulldogs 94-80 in their final home game of the season. They improved to a 8-9 record in conference play.
It was senior night at The Pit: Emmanuel Kuac, KJ Jenkins, Josiah Allick, Jaelen House and Morris Udeze were honored before the game. They received flowers and a framed photo of one their highlights. Fans celebrated the players with a standing ovation and a "thank you seniors" chant. Besides Udeze, all players have an extra year of eligibility they earned for the year they lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lobos had a good game all around. They out-rebounded Fresno State 32-29, shot efficiently — making 32 of their 55 shots — and made 22 free throws.
There were five Lobos in double-digit scoring, but it was Udeze and House who dominated the game, scoring 25 and 24, respectively. Udeze grabbed nine rebounds; House also had five rebounds and five assists in the game.
The Bulldogs had four players in double-digit scoring, but it was Jemari Baker Jr. who led the team in scoring with 16 points. Eduardo Andre also had a good game for Fresno, scoring 13 points and earning three blocks.
Udeze scored the first points of the game off an assist from House. Leo Colimerio scored for the Bulldogs by cutting to the basket for an open layup. Javonté Johnson made a 3-pointer, but Isaiah Hill responded with a 3-pointer of his own. The Lobos were down 12-11 with 14:40 left in the first half.
Out of the timeout, Allick found Johnson under the basket for an easy layup. House followed it up with a 3-pointer in transition and then stole the ball for a layup to make a quick 7-0 run. Baker ended the run with a jump shot. The Lobos were up 23-17 at the second media timeout.
House was fouled on a made layup and sinked the free throw; Mashburn then made a mid-range jump shot on the next possession. Baker and Destin Whitaker made back-to-back free throws to cut into the Lobo lead. UNM was up 38-36 with 3:38 left in the half.
Udeze made a pair of free throws, and on defense, Donovan Dent had a block that turned into an Udeze layup. House made a floater at the end of the half to put the Lobos up 50-42. House and Udeze had a great first half with 15 points each. UNM was also up to nine second-chance points and were winning the rebounding battle 16-8. The Lobos had trouble with protecting the basket, though, allowing 20 points in the paint.
Fresno started the second half with 5 straight points, but Mashburn prevented a run with a layup. Johnson made a 3-pointer to put the Lobos up by double digits. Mashburn stole the ball and made a jump shot. Udeze made a hook shot to cap off a 12-0 run that was ended with an Andre layup. The Lobos were up 64-51 with 14:35 left in the game.
The Lobos gave up a 7-0 run, but Mashburn drove the lane for a layup to protect the lead. House made a 3-pointer to put the Lobos back up by double digits. UNM forced a turnover that led to a media timeout. The Lobos were up 74-63 with 7:34 remaining.
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Out of the timeout, Dent sprinted up the court for a powerful dunk. Baker made a 3-pointer, but Jenkins responded by making back-to-back 3-pointers. UNM was up 87-71 with 3:57 on the clock.
Udeze and House were taken out of the game with 2:07 remaining and received a standing ovation from the crowd. Jenkins was subbed out shortly after, also receiving cheers from the crowd. The Lobos won 94-80.
After the game, head coach Richard Pitino hinted that some of the seniors will be returning for one more season and praised Udeze for helping bring back Lobo men's basketball. He also said moving forward, the defense has to improve.
"To have Morris leave here 25-and-9 is awesome: special kid. (I’m) so happy he chose here. He has helped build a foundation … I think we're getting better, and I do think some of it is we're a little small on the perimeter — we just got to be scrappier, and we have to show some fire on the defensive side of it," Pitino said.
After the game, Udeze showed thanks for his time in New Mexico.
"It's been a blessing for this one year here. I wish I came here earlier, to be honest. I love the fans out here, my teammates, everybody. It's kind of been an emotional last home game. All of this is a blessing to be honest, and it's a blessing for me to go out there and compete in front of these fans," Udeze said.
The Lobos play their final game of the regular season against Colorado State University on Friday, March 3 in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thomasbulger10