The Lobos took advantage of a short-handed Colorado State team in their 80-65 victory last Saturday at the Pit, as the top two scorers for the Rams were unable to play due to injuries. UNM capitalized on their opponent’s misfortunes and took care of business before their home crowd.
The Utah State Aggies found themselves in a similar situation on Wednesday night against a UNM team that suited up just seven players (six-scholarship), with the hot shooting Aggies holding court at home with an 89-80 before 6,345 home fans at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Freshman Vladimir Pinchuk is in the concussion protocol, Sam Logwood is dealing with a shoulder injury and other off-court issues, and Jachai Simmons left the team earlier in the week because of a death in his family. But the biggest hit to the Lobos was at the surprise absence of senior point guard and third-leading scorer Antino Jackson, who did not join the team in Logan after violating an unspecified team rule.
Despite these issues, the Lobos played the Aggies close and were within one score with just under one minute to play. Anthony Mathis scored a career-high 25 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the floor and 6 of 10 from behind the arc to lead the Lobos, while Chris McNeal added 21 points and three assists in Jackson’s stead as the starting point guard for head coach Paul Weir.
But the combination of Mathis and McNeal stepping up their play could not overcome the hot shooting of the Aggies, who finished the game shooting 56.4% from the floor and 54.2% from three-point land.
Four Aggies finished in double figures, with sophomore guard Koby McEwen scoring a career-high 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting. The 6-4, 200 pound native of Toronto made six of eight three-point baskets and led his team in rebounding while playing the entire 40-minute game.
Utah State outshot, out-rebounded, and forced more turnovers than the Lobos, as the short bench for New Mexico forced Weir to play more zone defense and limited UNM’s ability to play their uptempo press defense.
With the win, the Aggies improve to 13-11 and 6-5 in Mountain West Conference play. The Lobos dropped to 11-12 overall and 6-4 in the conference standings. The Lobos will look to rite the ship on Saturday against a last-place San José State team that has yet to log their first conference win. (3-18, 0-10).