The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team took on No. 19 San Diego State University this past Saturday, Jan. 13 and earned a statement win – defeating the Aztecs 88-70. The team came in after a 83-73 loss against the University of Las Vegas, but rallied hard for fans.
The Pit saw a record breaking 15,437 fans pack the seats – the most since 2009. The Lobos improved to 14-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play. The team remains undefeated in their nine home games.
The game was a hard one from the beginning. San Diego State fell to a record of 14-3. This was the first time the Lobos faced the Aztecs since their March Madness title run last season.
Nelly Junior Joseph (#23) took the tip off for the Lobos but the Aztecs quickly took the ball back and secured the first points. Jaelen House (#10) retrieved the ball and, with the help of Donovan Dent (#2), sank a three-point shot. Both teams continued to go back and forth for the first few minutes until the Aztecs’ Jay Pal (#4) slammed a dunk. The first media timeout saw the score at 10-7 with the Aztecs up.
Over the course of the game, fans got to witness a battle of point guards between House and the Aztecs’ Darrion Trammell (#12). The first quarter belonged to Trammell, who was able to pick up multiple assists, including a cross-court pass to Miles Byrd (#21). With the momentum in hand, the Aztecs had an 11-point lead over the Lobos at 32-21.
Then House turned the intensity up high. Right after Trammbell and Byrd’s play, House was able to make a three-pointer; he caught Trammell off guard for a steal, causing The Pit to erupt.
Throughout the game, fans went wild and kept the players electrified. Head Coach Richard Pitino and JT Toppin (#15) commented on how the Lobo fans, as a whole, were fantastic.
“Our players are going to talk about these kinds of moments for the rest of their lives. I even had moments on the bench when I’m like, ‘Don’t start crying.’ That’s how special moments like these are,” Pitino said.
The Lobos ran away with the end of the half, using the help of House’s 17-2 run. Players like Toppin were able to keep the pressure up. With a great half, the Lobos ended up on top at 40-37.
Toppin began to shine through his defense from that point on. Toppin broke his personal record in career rebounds with 16 rebounds – nine coming from the offensive end along with five blocks and 17 points.
“We knew that we were going to win off of defense. We knew we could score on offense, but defense is what’s going to win us the game,” Toppin said. “We knew we needed to put in the work from our match against UNLV, but we got there tonight.”
The House and Toppin pair proceeded to kick off the second half with a breakaway pass and dunk, inciting a roar from the Lobo fanbase. But the Aztecs weren’t out of it yet and kept up the pace, almost scoring point for point. The first media timeout saw the score at 49-46 with the Lobos up still.
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The start of the second half saw a lot of fouls called on both teams, but Aztecs’ began to foul consistently, which led to lots of free throws.
The fourth quarter saw the second showstopper of the Lobos come to life. Jamal Mashburn Jr. (#5) had four consecutive scoring positions. The final 10 minutes of the game were the “Mash and House” show in full form. While Mashburn was making shots, House was able to execute the same steal and dunk with Toppin four more times.
The Aztecs were seemingly frustrated by the end of the game. Micah Parrish (#3) fouled out of the game with five fouls. The last one was because he pushed House to the ground and a brawl almost broke out. That didn’t stop the Lobos who went on to close out the game with an 18-point lead at 88-70.
The win over the Aztecs was a big game for the Lobos, but they are not done with their work if they want to make it to March Madness. Their work continues on Tuesday, Jan. 16 where they’ll face the No. 20 Utah State Aggies a5t 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 beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached on Twitter @BillyJackDL