Game Recap: No. 22 New Mexico 76, Wyoming 75
Lobos survive foul heavy battle in Laramie.
No. 22 New Mexico holds off Wyoming on the road to move to 14-0.
LARAMIE, WY–Saturday afternoon’s Mountain West matchup between a red hot No. 22 New Mexico Lobos team and a preseason championship challenger Wyoming Cowboys was an underrated watch.
It feels like a mirror image/alternate reality of sorts compare to the last time these two programs met on the hardwood. Back then, a No. 22 ranked Wyoming squad suffered an upset on the road inside the Pit. Saturday had an eerily similar feel but ultimately produced a very different result.
The Lobos began this contest similarly to their home blowout of Colorado State on Tuesday. A little frantic and shooting cold, so found themselves down early and trailing their hosts most of the first-half.
The turning point in the first-half was the injury of Wyoming’s leading scorer Noah Reynolds. The star sophomore guard took an elbow to the back of the head and was then removed from the game as part of concussion protocols.
After that, the Lobos chipped away at the Cowboys’ lead piece by piece until the halftime buzzer. The Cowboys went to their locker room up one and with a shot at the upset to cap off the 2023 calendar year.
The second-half brought much of the same, some questionable officiating on both sides and a dogfight for an additional twenty minutes. This game saw 9 different lead changes and 12 times in which the score was tied. But once again a key element in this game was foul trouble.
As the Lobo’s third leading scorer Morris Udeze went to the bench with his fourth foul, with over fifteen minutes left in the game. Similarly, the Cowboys had to sit star point-forward Hunter Maldonado who received his fourth foul soon after.
Maldonado made most of his money in the second-half, with 11 of his 15 points coming in just 11 minutes. Another turning point was the seniors fifth and final foul of the game, which saw his scoring streak come to a close.
With two of the Cowboys’ main scoring threats neutralized, the game became a back and fourth battle the rest of the way. Seeing New Mexico’s leading scorer Jaelen House suffer a similar fate, receiving his fifth foul in the closing minutes of the game, with is team down one.
Jamal Mashburn Jr. went to the line after a drive to the basket and netted two free throw shots with less than twenty seconds on the game clock. A missed Max Agbonkpolo three pointer to seal the win was followed by an offensive rebound and missed put back by Brendan Wenzel. With the ball in New Mexico’s possession Josiah Allick was fouled and the final buzzer sounded.
A game plagued with less than sharp officiating came down to an official review, the verdict being 1.5 seconds placed back on the shot clock for a last chance shot for Wyoming.
A beautifully executed inbound play facing full court man-to-man defense gave the home team one more chance at the upset. But, the Lobos survived and held on to secure the 76-75 win inside the Dome of Doom.
New Mexico: F Josiah Allick
Josiah Allick has spoken about his role on this undefeated & now nationally ranked New Mexico team in the past. Mentioning cleaning up a lot of what the other scorers on the roster leave on the floor, and doing the little things.
— Lobo Basketball (@UNMLoboMBB) December 31, 2022
Today was different, with the team’s third leading scorer and fellow big man Morris Udeze being rendered useless (0 points, 4 rebounds, 4 fouls & 3 turnovers) early on Allick adjusted. The 6-8 high flying forward filled the void in the frontcourt with his second double-double of the season with 15 points & 15 rebounds while shooting 7-12 from the floor. Including only his third three point field goal of the season.
A big reason I gave the recognition to Allick instead of Mashburn Jr. (20 points & the game winning free throws) or House (16 points & 5 assists) was just how smart he played 39 minutes of basketball. Very intelligently and careful, only logging 2 fouls in a game plagued with foul trouble. Staying in the game and helping his team secure the win.
Wyoming: G Ethan Anderson
With the absence of Wyoming’s leading scorer, Anderson showed out. The former Pac-12 starting floor general showed the part. With a dominant showing in the paint and on the boards. His 6-1 210 pound frame allowed him to bully the smaller Lobo defenders into the lane and into the scoresheet.
— Wyoming Cowboy Basketball (@wyo_mbb) December 31, 2022
Anderson finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds & 5 assists while shooting an impressive 70% from the floor. Also impressive is he managed those 17 points, with only 1 three pointer (1-1) and just two made free throws (2-6). The rest of his output came from a very tough but effective day in the paint.
- The Cowboys are certainly a talented team, we saw them go toe-to-toe with a top-25 ranked New Mexico squad. They had the skill, athleticism and depth to make things difficult on the undefeated Lobos. Reynolds missing more time because of his injury today would be another blow to the program. But with an expected return date sometime this month for Preseason MWC Player of the Year Graham Ike, the Cowboys look dangerous.
- Anderson’s emergence in a time of need offensively was not the lone example Saturday afternoon. Jeremiah Oden showed out for his best performance in weeks (13 points & 5 rebounds), also providing a dunk of the year entry to impress all.
- New Mexico hasn’t been tested this much all season. It may have been tough to watch for Lobo fans but great teams secure tough wins and very rarely do teams finish the season undefeated. So, this adversity can only be looked at as growth and a positive. It’s a positive that a team who has dominated others in recent weeks had the self awareness to adjust, play smarter defensively in the second-half and pull out the road W.
- Lastly, this Lobo team once again showed plenty of tenacity and resilience. As two of their star players struggled in House and Udeze, so others responded. New Mexico doesn’t look deep on paper, but for their star guards and big men to play interchangeably as they did today says plenty.
Breaks appear to be in short supply for New Mexico. As the Lobos stay on the road for another road test at Fresno State on Tuesday. The Bulldogs like plenty of teams in the Mountain West this year are hot and cold. Capable of beating the team you just took down to the wire, but also capable of struggling just the same.
New Mexico’s matchup against the Bulldogs is set for a late tip-off at 9:00 PM MST/8:00 PM PT on the CBS Sports Network.
While the Cowboys have a weeks time to regroup and head on the road for a test of their own in San Diego. Wyoming will take on an Aztec’s squad who always seems to regroup and reload during conference play. The preseason Mountain West favorites held off a quality UNLV squad in Las Vegas on Saturday to add to their 2-0 conference start.
That game will tip off at 2:00 PM MST/1:00 PM PT and will also air on CBS Sports Network.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.