Game recap: New Mexico 84, SMU 63
Josiah Allick helps lead the Lobo attack in double-digit road win.
New Mexico pulls off a 21-point away win over SMU, led by four Lobos in double figures
DALLAS, TX — The New Mexico Lobos live up to every preseason hype they’ve received from the national media. Synced The sleeper the Mountain West Conference. For head coach Richard Pitino, the pieces come together early, and his program becomes a date on the calendar that no opponent is currently looking forward to.
Two wins to start the season over a budding program in southern Utah. Plus a roster from Southern Alabama who will be battling for a Sun Belt Conference regular-season title this year says quite a bit.
But those quality gains at home in one of the country’s greatest home advantages are one thing. Taking to the streets on Tuesday night should be a real test of how far this team has come.
The Lobos traveled east to face an SMU Mustangs program in a rebuilding year. Longtime head coach Tim Jankovich announced his resignation at the end of March, and Rob Lanier was appointed as his successor shortly thereafter.
This came after a successful season at Georgia State, which saw the Panthers run in the first round to the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship and a hole ticket against No. 1 seed Gonzaga.
The visiting Lobos really put their foot down in the Moody Coliseum. Leading the game for all but about four minutes early. Led by efficient defense, careful ball handling and a balanced attack. New Mexico forced 15 turnovers (11 in the first half) and capitalized on those turnovers with 20 points scored. While throwing out 21 assists for just 10 of their own turnovers.
Now the offensive attack was not exactly balanced. As the Lobos shot a poor 29.4% from three-point range, goals came from all parts of the squad in that game. The star of the Lobos was Post player Josiah Allick for most of the evening. One of four Lobos to reach a double-digit score (18 points) alongside Jaelen House (18 points), Jamal Mashburn Jr. (16 points) and Morris Udeze (15 points).
All that firepower helped New Mexico shoot a whopping 52.5% from the field. Helping secure one of their biggest wins of the Richard Pitino era.
The score might not reflect it, but the Mustangs still put up a fight with the Lobos Tuesday night. Led by sophomore guard Zhuric Phelps, who led the Mustangs by 16 points. And a press felt by the Lobos’ ball handlers for the full breadth of the court and all night.
Lobos’ 21-point win away against a Southern Methodist-caliber side feels eminently nostalgic for Lobo fans. It’s been quite a while since the program was so successful. And lived up to the pre-season hype. But it’s still very early in the season and another big test on their non-conference list awaits them this weekend in Albuquerque.
Players in the spotlight
New Mexico: Sr F Josiah Allick
A big focus for Coach Pitino this offseason has been giving his high-scoring duo of House and Mashburn Jr. some backing on the scoreboard. Another element missing from last season’s squad were points in the paint, adds Josiah Allick.
The 6-8 Kansas City transfer forward looked like an All-League-caliber forward in Dallas Tuesday night. Allick led the Lobo attack for most of the night, finishing the game with 18 points (8-9 from the floor, 88.9%), 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in just under 30 minutes of play. He had it done in several places on the pitch. Running the floor, posting up in color and of course attacking the rim.
He and colleague Morris Udeze are a strong double whammy up front for coach Pitino. Which fits perfectly with his star-studded backcourt of Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr.
Southern Methodist: So. G Zhuric Phelps
SMU struggled on both sides of the ball for most of the night. But Phelps was a Mustang who never took his foot off the gas against the Lobos. Finish the night on the hardwood floor with 16 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound and 1 steal in just 27 minutes. When shooting 5-11 from the floor (45.5%) and 5-7 (71.4%) from the free throw line.
Phelps really challenged the Lobo backcourt to keep an eye on their defensive duties. With good shot selection and clever play in drawing some of the few fouls called against New Mexico all night.
The Lobos look like a real deal on the road after this quality win. Of course, SMU isn’t exactly the same program that’s been battling for the top spot in American for the past few seasons. But a quality road win nonetheless. Since New Mexico was 2-12 out of the pits last season, progress on their first real road test of the season is progress.
Again, the fact that this team is now able to get their goals from players other than just House and Mashburn is tremendous. I mean, House didn’t cross the double digits well into the second half. Where he once again took over the game fouled or not (9-10 on FTs) with his speed, powerful motor and ability to reach the bucket. But let’s say Allick hadn’t shown his performance in the first half, the game would have been much closer and more of a dogfight given very similar stats on both sides.
KJ Jenkins makes his name known for Mountain West 6th Man of the Year really early. With 8 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals in just 19 minutes off the bench, Jenkins looks good when he’s on the ground. Contribute with shots, distribute, ricochet as usual and now play defense. Though he’s still struggling to find his three-point shot this season (4-13 in three games), he’s certainly the spark off the bench this team needs.
The Lobos head home to prepare for this year’s inaugural Rio Grande Rivalry. As they host the New Mexico State Aggies Saturday the 15th at 5:00 p.m. This matchup is a nod to the Mountain West Network and must watch streaming for all fan bases involved.
The Lobos play some of the best basketball we’ve had in years. While the Aggies showed some growing pains in their recent cable failure at their rivals UTEP over the weekend. This is a big test for coach Pitino and his revised program. A win on Saturday could let the rest of Mountain West know they’ve returned.
Larry Muniz is a college basketball writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also co-hosted the college basketball podcast Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry. He is also a USWBA member.
Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire