It wasn’t pretty on Saturday afternoon, but the Lobos overcame a slow start to beat McNeese State 90-80 to move to 4-0 for the first time since 2012.
Forward Corey Manigault led UNM with 24 points in 20 minutes of action off the bench, with five Lobos finishing in double-figures on the day. Carlton Bragg Jr. led all players with 18 rebounds, while guard JJ Caldwell posted a game-high ten assists despite not scoring a point in the game.
The story of the game was a slow start by the Lobos mixed with a hot start by the high-scoring tandem of Sha’markus Kennedy and Dry Kuxhausen. The forward/guard duo for the Cowboys came out swinging at the Pit, scoring ten of the team’s first 12 points to give McNeese an early 12-5 lead at the 16.25 mark of the first period.
McNeese would extend to a ten-point margin on a layup by Kennedy at 15:07, creating a bit of unease for the 10,501 fans at the Pit expecting a blowout win for the heavily favored Lobos. UNM entered the game with three wins on their record compared to McNeese, a division-two school with a first-year head coach and no road wins this season.
The Lobos would go on an 8-0 run after the lay up form Kennedy to cut the deficit to just one. UNM would outscore McNeese 34-22 in the final 15 minutes of the half to enter the break with a 44-39 advantage.
UNM finished the game with a plus-11 rebound margin and committed seven fewer turnovers than McNeese State. The Lobos also dominated with points in the point, fast break points, and points off the bench.
After a slow start shooting from the free-throw line in the first half, UNM finished with 23 of 35 free throws for 74%.
It was not the best performance of the year for the Lobos, but they overcame a pretty strong punch by an inferior team and responded with a win.
The Lobos hit the road for their next two games against UTEP on Tuesday and New Mexico State on Thursday. The Miners are 3-0 on the season, with wins over New Mexico Highlands and New Mexico State.