Saturday, Dec. 2 saw the University of New Mexico Lobos and the New Mexico State University Aggies men’s basketball teams meet for the first time since November 2022.
Last November, a conflict between UNM students and former members of the NMSU basketball team ended in the death of Brandon Travis – a UNM student. Head Coach Pitino commented on the conflict during a press conference on Friday, Dec. 1 and how that would affect Saturday night’s game.
“It was obviously a huge tragedy, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the rivalry,” Pitino said.
UNM’s Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez and NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia felt the rivalry could resume safely with security precautions, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Saturday night, The Pit was filled to capacity as the Lobos put on a show-stopping performance, winning 106-62 and taking their seventh game in the season, almost doubling their opponents' score.
The game started off strong for the athletes in cherry and silver with #10 Jaelen House who was able to steal two passes and score off of them in the first five minutes. The Aggies called a timeout early, hoping to stop the Lobos momentum with a score of 17-8.
The Lobos played with great synergy and ball coordination, particularly #12 Isaac Mushila and #0 Jemarl Baker Jr. who got to be on the court for the majority of the game. The Lobos got to have lots of chances at the free throw line; in total, 29 fouls were on NMSU.
By the end of the second quarter, #2 Donovan Dent had a great steal and fast break for a layup. Dent and House were playing alongside each other and lighting the floor up the first half of the match. The Lobos ended the first half up 13 points, 55-32.
House commented upon how it felt being back on the court since last year.
“I know it’s a rivalry game and we got to step up and put on a show for the fans, and that’s what we did tonight,” House said.
As the second half kicked off, the Lobos continued to put pressure on the Aggies – playing with solid passing and rebounding.
The Aggies did have their own moments. The team comprised of lots of big players who were good at playing in the paint, especially #1 Kaosi Ezeagu who was able to get a few dunks early into the game.
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While there were moments for the Aggies, it was all Lobos when it came down to what mattered. In the first half, it was all about scoring – House making all five of his three throws, and totaling his points to 28 in the game. In the second half, it was the assists. First with #3 Tru Washington who received a behind-the-back pass into a dunk, and then within the same few minutes was #11 Quinton Webb who dunked off a lob pass.
It was clear that the Lobos were on fire, and by the first media timeout of the half, the score was 81-45.
Post game, Pitino said he was more than content with the team’s performance, and with the turnout of fans at The Pit.
“So very grateful to the fans that came out,” Pitino said. “We played really well, passed really well – 24 assists on 34 field goals is great, and defensively we did a lot of good things. Just a great night.”
In the third quarter, the Lobos only continued their aggression on offense and defense. Players like #1 Braden Appelhans came in for some great three-pointers throughout the second half.
The Lobos seemed confident by the five-minute mark that they had already put this game in the bag up 98-58 and somewhat took their foot off the gas.
House said that he felt good going into the game, even after saying how he “felt off” during the previous game against Louisiana Tech.
“I was still trying to get my feet under me. I’ve been out for a long time now,” House said. “I just came into tonight feeling like it was going to be my night.”
It was the Lobos night without a doubt; they closed out their rivalry game with an almost record-breaking score of 106-62. The Pit was filled with deafening cheers as the buzzer went off.
The Lobos will play again at home this week on Wednesday, Dec. 6 against UC Santa Barbara.
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 beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached on Twitter @BillyJackDL