Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Lobos pick up first MWC victory, get out of last place | Sports

ALBUQUERQUE — In the current era of lobo basketball, a home win over a long-time favorite is cause for optimism.

The University of New Mexico claimed its first win in 38 days with an 86-70 win over San Jose State on Friday night in The Pit. Not only was it the program’s first win since beating Norfolk State four days before Christmas, it lifted the Lobos out of the Mountain West Conference basement for the first time all season.

Going 8-13 overall and 1-7 in league play, UNM leapfrogged San Jose State (7-12, 0-7) into 10th place. If the season ended now, the Lobos would face Nevada and former head coach Steve Alford in the opening round of the MWC tournament.

“Overall, I mean, a 16-point win where we’re at, that’s what we’re going to take,” said Lobos coach Richard Pitino on his radio appearance after the game. “There were certainly a lot of good things. What I appreciate about this team is that we know we’re not where we should be, but we came close and we stayed confident. The joy has not been taken away from me and that is nice to see.”

Five lobos landed in double digits, led by Jamal Mashburn Jr. with 23 points. Point guard Jaelen House almost had a triple-double and scored 18 points with

13 assists and seven rebounds.

He said afterwards he knew exactly how close he was to the rare feat. No Lobo has scored a triple-double since former NBA star Luc Longley did it against Penn State in 1990.

“I was trying to get three boards, you know,” House said. “That would be cool; I’ve never had a double-double before.”

UNM controlled Friday’s game from the start, scoring the first nine points and leading by as much as 17 points before halftime. The Spartans never came within three possessions after that quick start.

Forward Jay Allen-Tovar also had

18 points. He’s been on the receiving end of a few House Lobs, pieces that illustrate the chemistry the two have forged since becoming roommates before the season.

“We practice together every day; I think we have pretty good team chemistry,” House said. “Only grinded together every day for the last five or six months.”

Eventually, in SJSU, the Lobos faced an opponent from Mountain West that they could control on the glass. As one of the worst rebound teams in the conference, UNM held a

38-23 lead in Friday’s game. Four Lobos had at least a half-dozen rebounds, including seven each from the two shortest players on the list in house and reserve guard KJ Jenkins.

The ability to deter the Spartans from any type of rally by clearing the boards resulted in a victory that is both a relief and a catalyst. Pitino said after a series of narrow losses in the MWC game, the team never doubted their potential to win games.

“I’ve been trying very, very hard not to make it by wins and losses now; I really have the first year while we’re trying to build it up,” Pitino said. “It definitely feels good. We’ve had a lot of heartbreak over the last five or six weeks.”


Javonte Johnson missed both of his 3-point attempts and extended his streak to eight straight in the last two games. … The Lobos had 10 3-pointers on just 22 tries against SJSU, ending game shooting

54 percent from the field. … The announced viewership was 8,277. It is UNM’s last home game until February 15 against Wyoming. The Lobos travel to the state of San Diego on Monday and the Air Force on February 5th.

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