New Mexico Falls At Home, Nevada Sweeps Lobos 77-76

New Mexico Falls At Home, Nevada Sweeps Lobos 77-76

Mountain West Basketball

New Mexico Falls At Home, Nevada Sweeps Lobos 77-76


 Game Recap: Nevada 77, New Mexico 76

Wolf Pack secure hard fought win inside a packed Pit.

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Nevada secures road W, thanks to Keenan Blackshear’s last second game winner. 

ALBUQUERQUE, NM–The stage was set, a rematch a little over two weeks in the making. A Lobo squad looking for some retribution on their home court and a Nevada squad looking for the sweep of the series.

Steve Alford is one of New Mexico’s most decorated coaches, but now public enemy number one every time he returns to his former home. With a near sold out crowd and in a three-way tie for second place, the Wolf Pack went to work.

Things got started early (the game not the broadcast that was delayed), with both team’s exchanging baskets from the tip. The game finally slowed down around the fifteen minute mark, tied 10-10. But continued to be a back and forth contest the rest of the way. With ten total lead changes and six different ties throughout the first-half.

Nevada’s Jarod Lucas (16 points) and New Mexico’s Jaelen House (14 points) lead the charge for their respective sides in the first twenty minutes.

Foul trouble kept Nevada from taking the lead most of the half. As well as creating a comfortable gap before halftime. But the Wolf Pack zone helped turn the tides in the closing minutes. Creating a smothering wall, forcing the Lobos into sloppy offensive possessions and capitalizing on the other end. Heading into half-time up 45-41 and plenty of offensive momentum.

The beginning of the second-half brought similar play from both teams. Nevada chugging along and making shots count. While New Mexico had a few plays go their way in the post, but relied on free throws to keep the gap to single digits.

A Lobo surge nearing the ten minute mark, awoke the home crowd. Making 5/6 field goals in the time, shrinking the Wolf Pack lead to just one point (65-64). The Lobos took their first lead of the second-half at the 4:42 mark with a Jaelen House layup, putting the home squad ahead 66-65.

A Mashburn Jr. mid-range jumper and two made free throws by House in the following possession looked like a Lobo lifeline to victory. But after multiple ties in the closing minutes, Jamal Mashburn Jr. put the Lobos ahead 76-75 with 15.4 seconds left on the game clock. Could you believe it? Two final second thrillers between these two teams in just over two weeks.

It was the ending every Lobo fan in the building couldn’t wait to tweet about, or retweet. But Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear had something to say about that.

Blackshear’s game winner took the air out of the Pit, but immediately went under review. Mainly for how many seconds the Lobos had after his shot rolled around the rim longer than Fox Sports made folks wait to start the game. Steve Alford is now 8-0 against his former employer, including a 2-0 record in the Pit. And the Lobos will press reset to have a clear mind on the road this weekend.

Player Spotlights

New Mexico:  Morris Udeze

The Houstonian big man really showed out for New Mexico when it was needed in the second-half. It wasn’t obvious that the Lobos would overcome Nevada’s grip on their lead in the first ten minutes out of half-time. Then came Udeze.

It was hard to pick just one highlight tweet to insert below. Given the big man was flying for rebounds, rising up to swat shots back to the ground and implementing perfect ball movement for unchallenged dunks. But I chose this put back slam, because it seems like a testament to his fearlessness and drive to help his team secure the win.

Udeze ended the night with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals & 2 assists in 34 minutes on the floor. With plenty of highlights and the hot hand heading to Colorado on Friday.

Nevada:  G Jarod Lucas

Lucas, coming off of a phenomenal pair of performances last week against Air Force and San Diego State. An early air ball didn’t detour Nevada’s leading scorer as Lucas amassed 16 points in the first-half alone. Ending the contest with 28 points, 3 rebounds & 1 assist in 36 minutes of action.

The 6-4 Pac-12 transfer was lights out all night, shooting 61% (11-18) from the floor and 66.6% (6-9) from deep. With several of those three pointers coming from a little closer to the half-court line then the three-point line.

Lucas went a little silent in the last five minutes or so, but his consistent performance throughout helped his squad overtake the Lobos in the first half and keep them distant most of the second.

Also he does so with very minimal dribbling and moves without the ball to find his opportunities. I was very impressed by maybe the frontrunner for Mountain West Player of the Year Tuesday night.

Three Takeaways

  • Nevada walked into a crowded, noisy and hostile environment and left with the win. Not an easy achievement, even for a former Lobo coach, who won plenty in that same building. The Wolf Pack looked rock solid and didn’t let foul trouble get in the way of their primed offense. Shooting the ball efficiently, solid defense and playing team basketball to secure the sweep.
  • The Lobos high paced offense was once again met with size, length and adapting defensive schemes. Coach Alford’s switch to a zone defense designed to slow things down and clog the paint did it’s job. It was a tough pill to swallow, but New Mexico had surges and moments of efficiency themselves. You have to remember this was a loss, but one with ties & lead changes galore and one that ultimately went down to the last possible second.
  • Mountain West play has been brutal to say the least for all teams involved. Any given night your team could suffer a loss against any of the conference’s top-50 ranked (KenPom) programs. Or log a loss to any of the league’s cellar dwellers. It’s tough, as we embrace the strength of the league increasing this season, we must come to terms with the possible repercussions come march. The league is ripping itself a part but making it entertaining for fans, and likely puzzling for selection committee.

Next Up:

The Lobos (19-5, 6-5) now look to rebound as they head north for their weekend matchup against Air Force in Colorado Springs. New Mexico’s Friday night matchup against Joe Scott’s Falcons is set to tip-off at 7:00 PM MST on FS1.

While the Wolfpack (19-6, 9-3) head home for a homestand against a dangerous Fresno State squad. Certainly capable of a road upset over one of the Mountain West’s best. Nevada’s Friday night matchup against the Bulldogs is set to tip-off at 8:00 PM PT on FS1.

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.


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