UNM Basketball: Tourney time for Lobos starts with San Jose State

In one of the earlier previews this season, it was said that anything could happen in the Mountain West Conference. Time after time, that adage has proven true for the Lobos (18-13, 7-11) this season. Most of those instances did not go in the team’s favor.

On Saturday night, however, Lady Luck was in the Lobos’ corner as they upset the visiting Utah State, 66-64. That unexpected win allowed the Lobos to secure the seventh seed in the Mountain West Conference Tournament this week.

As the No. 7 seed, the Lobos will first face off against No. 10 seed San Jose State University on Wednesday from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Historically, the Lobos haven’t fared well in first-round matchups with only a 1-3 record in those games. After the win on Saturday, there’s reason to believe that the Lobos will carry some momentum into the opening game. A Lobo win won’t come without a fight, though.

The Lobos and Spartans split the regular season, with each team taking a win on their home courts. The San Jose upended the then 13-2 Lobos, 88-85 in San Jose on New Year’s Day. Vance Jackson and JaQuan Lyle both had 25 points for the Lobos, but the defense faltered, allowing Richard Washington to covert seven shots from beyond the arc.

In the return game, though, it was a different story. Washington was a non-factor, as only one Spartan reached double-digit points in a 27 point blowout by UNM. That result may have been the more shocking of the two, given that the Lobos were without both Jackson and Lyle. Instead, the Lobos turned to Corey Manigault, who led all scorers with 21 points. Zane Martin (20), Makuach Maluach (15), and Keith McGee (10) all reached double digits, as the game was never really in doubt with the Lobos leading the entire way.

With a relatively intact lineup heading into the conference tournament, the Lobos are heavily favored in the first round and should come away with the win. The winner of Wednesday’s game will advance to take on No. 2 seed Utah State on Thursday night.

Wednesday’s game is set for a 3:30 p.m. (Mountain) tip. Fans not traveling to Las Vegas for the game can watch all of the action on the Mountain West Network.