The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team missed a golden opportunity to move up in the Mountain West Conference standings on Saturday night with a disappointing 78-68 home loss to San José State.
With Nevada falling to Utah State, UNM would move within a half-game of first place with a victory over the Spartans, a team looking to avoid finishing last in the conference.
Instead of taking care of business and protecting what was once one of the most coveted home-court advantages in college basketball, the Lobos continued their trend of allowing opponents to dismantle them from behind the arc as San José State shot 54% from the field and 44% from three-point range.
It was the first win in 13 tries for San Jose State against New Mexico and one of the biggest wins for head coach Dave Wojcik.
“This is one of the, if not the biggest win in program history,” said Wojcik after the game,
“We kept our composure,” continued Wojcik. “We had good poise. We had a good flow to the game offensively. I thought we controlled the tempo of the game for us. And ultimately, we made shots and created that lead for us.”
Conversely, the Lobos did not have good poise and seemed flat for most of the game.
“We just didn’t play very well tonight,” said head coach Craig Neal. “As far as pace and getting up and down the court. We had some runs in us but it just didn’t seem like we were there. My job is to get those guys active and playing at a higher level and we’ll continue to work on that.”
Elijah Brown led the Lobos with 21 points on 6-18 shooting, while fellow guard Sam Logwood added 19 points and seven rebounds.
The Spartans used a more balanced attack with four of five starters finishing in double digits, led by leading scorer Ryan Welage, a 6-9 205 forward who nailed four of six three-point attempts in route to 20 points.
The Lobos clearly missed forward Tim Williams’ presence inside as the Spartans owned a plus-8 advantage of points in the paint.
Williams’ absence aside, the Lobos failed to make baskets down the stretch and were unable to keep the Spartans from making big shots, particularly from behind the arc.
“They did a pretty good job of making shots, they shot over 50%,” said Neal. “That’s kind of been our problem all year and we gave them too many three point shots. There just wasn’t an urgency for our group to guard.”
With four games remaining in the season, the Lobos will need to improve on their urgency to guard if they plan on closing the 1.5 gap in MWC standings.