No, Dixie State University was not a big opponent.
But Wednesday night was a huge victory for UNM Lobos.
Taking advantage of the height they had hoped would be more of a weapon this season, the Lobos ended a six-game lost streak by beating the Trailblazers 50-39, beating 46-22 in the paint and block an almost program record 11 shots. route to a much-needed victory over 72-63 in St. George, Utah.
Sometimes it helps if you don’t have a 7-footer or 7-foot-3 guy in the paint trying to shoot over, Lobo senior Makuach Maluach, who scored 12 points, said rather matter-of-factly when asked about the relief of being back with play a measure advantage.
The Lobos, who played in a rare January non-conference game that wasn’t made official until 48 hours before it was played, got back in the win column hours after senior guard Keith McGee announced he’d opted out of the balance of the season 2020-21. on mental health issues caused by out-of-state relocation due to COVID-19.
With everything going on, Lobos coach Paul Weir acknowledged that the game on Wednesday and the result was very much needed.
I didn’t want to grumble (before the teams’ game on Saturday at UNLV) all week about where we were, Weir said. I wanted these guys to know I’m all in there. We were still all inclusive. Let’s find a basketball game and keep going.
UNM improves to 4-6 overall (0-6 in Mountain West game), but those six defeats came against three teams that were in the top 25 nationally at mean elevation Nevada (20th), Boise State (23rd) and Utah State (25th). Lobos’ confidence at the edge visibly waned in those games and seemed non-existent by the end of last Friday’s 36-point loss to Utah State and their 7-foot center, Neemias Queta.
For the first half of Wednesday, the Lobos were still rushing and missing easy shots on the edge, something Weir said assistant coach Scott Padgett, a former NBA great man, almost lost his mind by half time.
I think we still had Neemias Queta demons there at the beginning of the game, Weir said. We missed a lot of bunnies around the edge. But I thought as the game went on we were much better. We ended up to the edge instead of away from the edge.
A back-and-forth first half opened in the second half with a 20-4 UNM run, capped by the Lobos who scored 14 straight runs and took a 47-32 lead.
In the trajectory, Freshman, Point Guard, Isaiah Marin scored eight of his season-high 13 points and hit a pair of three-pointers. He came off the bench again after going 0-for-9 in two starts against Utah State.
UNM was spearheaded that night by a stat-stuffing appearance from 6-6 guard Saquan Singleton, who had a season-high 17 points to go with six rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and a steal in 36 minutes. Perhaps best of all for the junior who came into the game and shoots 57.1% of the free-throw line was his 7-of-10 showing at the charity line.
Whatever the coach needs to do, Singleton said after the game. I just go out and play my best. I didn’t really show it in the previous game. We needed a game like this to get our swag back. And I think we were now ready to roll.
UNM knocked 16 of 23 off the line (69.6%), including 13 of the last 14 who made the game freezing in the last four and a half minutes.
And yes, the swag and one-night smile seemed to be back, even if it was against freshman Division I member and WAC newcomer Dixie State (4-3).
It was a much-needed result for a team that hasn’t kept its frustration under wraps lately at having to live out of a suitcase for seven weeks, relocated from New Mexico due to a public health order that doesn’t allow them to exercise in their own state.
McGEE OUT: CLICK HERE to read more about McGees’ decision to opt out.
His statement posted on social media on Wednesday afternoon read, among other things:
What our team went through this year has had a major impact on my mental and physical well-being. My health and safety are more important than the game I love now. You have been a great support system for my teammates and coaches. Thank you Lobo Nation for all the wonderful memories of the past 3 years.
Weir noted that no decision has been made about McGees’ future, at UNM or elsewhere if transfer has not been made.
NEXT ONE: UNM at UNLV on Saturdays, 3:30 pm, CBS Sports Network, 770 AM / 96.3 FM
BOX SCORE: New Mexico 72, Dixie State 63
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