The men’s basketball team won their first exhibition match 83-65 this past Thursday against the Colorado State University Pueblo Thunderwolves.
The Lobos recently brought on seven new players, including one who only arrived in the country two days prior, and fans got to see the potential of the team.
The Lobos won the tip off with new player Nelly Junior Joseph getting the ball. Joseph was one of three new players in the starting line up for the Lobos, alongside Mustapha Amzil and Jemarl Baker Jr. The first half was rough for the Lobos.
While both teams played evenly, Joseph only had one practice’s worth of time with the team before and was learning as the game went on.
Returning players like Braden Appelhans and Quinton Webb were there with new blood to keep the flow of the game going.
Even with a few hiccups, the Lobos displayed great passing and scrambling around the Thunderwolves’ players – going back and forth with the ball and without a moment of stillness until it was shot from the three-point line.
It wasn’t just the Lobos who put on a good performance. The Thunderwolves showed off their own skill at the exhibition match – particularly Makiah Morris who played well at center, allowing space for his teammates to make it past the defense, which was the one weak point for the Lobos in the first half.
Still the team had great plays, particularly from freshman JT Toppin who scored 16 points with five rebounds and four blocks in the game. Donovan Dent not only secured 26 points and six assists but showed great ball work with Toppin.
Dent shot an incredibly efficient 8-11 and went 10-11 from the free throw line. After the game, he talked about his improved jump shot and his excitement for the team.
“I’ve been working on my jump shot in the off season with strength training and getting to the rim – which I got to show tonight – but I just wanna play a lot and get my teammates involved,” Dent said. “I’m pumped for our future; we got me, JT, Tru – we’re all looking good right now, and it’s only going to get better when we get Nelly in the mix.”
By the second half of the game, the Lobos committed to and accomplished securing their defense. The Lobos had 13 blocked shots by the end of the game. Joseph began to play more aggressively at the basket – denying multiple lay-ups.
Toppin was also able to secure two more dunks within the first minute after stealing the ball and having Dent pass cross court to Toppin for an explosive moment.
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Up 56-49, the Lobos had some great plays to pull away for the win. Joseph got his moment to shine during the last five minutes of the game with back to back blocked shots and a clinical pass between defenders to Shane Douma-Sanchez for a dunk.
The last minutes of the game were of the Lobos playing solid while drawing out the clock. The Thunderwolves had one response with a cross court pass from Isaiah Morris to Daeyon James for a nice dunk, but it wasn’t enough. The Lobos secured the win with a strong 83-65 score.
Lobos Head Coach Richard Pitino said he was overall content with the performance of the team against CSU Pueblo, but said it’s time to get to work.
“It’s exciting, but I remind myself that we’re going to be a work in progress here,” Pitino said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch these new guys like Toppin, but we’re playing a top 20 team, Saint Mary’s, and it’s going to be harder than tonight.”
This was the first of two exhibition matches for the Lobos, and their next will be on Nov. 1 where they play New Mexico Highlands at The Pit.
BillyJack Davidson is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BillyJackDL
BillyJack Davidson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached on Twitter @BillyJackDL