2024 NCAA Tournament: No. 11 New Mexico Exits Early, After 77-56 1st Round Loss to No. 6 Clemson

 Game Recap: No. 6 Clemson 77, No. 11 New Mexico 56

New Mexico falls to a primed & ready Clemson team in 1st round.

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March Madness ends early for the Lobos as an inopportune cold streak leaves them chasing the Tigers most of the way.

Memphis, TN–The New Mexico men’s basketball program returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade was a highly anticipated moment in Richard Pitino’s tenure. After a memorable run to the Mountain West Tournament Championship.

The Lobos have taken that dream & made it their new reality. As they face off against the Tigers of Clemson, whom many have pegged as the “trendy” upset pick of the 1st round.

Whether or not being trendy will be enough to upset an extremely solid ACC squad with a longtime coach & all-conference caliber players remains to be seen.

Things began close, with a couple of field goals exchanged on each side. A PJ hall three-pointer pushed the No. 6 seeded Tigers ahead 7-4. A pair of Jack Clark free throws extended their lead to 9-4, before a Jaelen House three pointer brought the Lobos to within two (9-7).

As both teams would miss some mid-range jumpers, the ball went inside. With an interior field goal from both Nelly Junior-Joseph & Ian Schieffelin bringing things to 11-9. A 7-0 Clemson run approaching the fifteen minute mark separated the two sides. Putting the Lobos down 18-9, in just a minutes time.

Clemson’s experience was on full display. The Tigers frontcourt was in full offensive swing as well, being responsible for six of their teams first seven field goals. Including 2-2 shooting from deep from their First-Team All-ACC big man PJ Hall.

Early on the Lobos struggled to create offense, with only 1 assist to 2 turnovers compare to the Tigers who boasted 6 assists with no turnovers in the same span.

Right under the ten minute mark, the Lobos found themselves in a place they didn’t want to be. Down nineteen, in the middle of a nearly five minute scoring drought & chasing an extremely hot Tigers squad into half-time.

A Junior-Joseph mid-range jumper ended the 12-0 Clemson run. A series of free throws from Jack Clark & Jaelen House progressed things forward. While another Junior-Joseph turnaround hook shot & offensive tip to Toppin in the ensuing play began to chip away at Clemson’s lead. Now down by just 13 (32-19) approaching the five minute mark in the first half.

Hall would make a beautifully acrobatic layup to make his first offensive impact since the eleventh minute. On the other end Mashburn Jr. & House would miss back-to-back three point shots.

It wasn’t a momentum killer though. As Junior-Joseph made another layup on the next possession, Amzil would take an offensive charge by Hall on the other end to be capped by Dent’s second made field goal of the game.

It was a tough existence for the Lobos who would go through scoring droughts. Find a few offensive opportunities to only have that momentum snuffed out with some sort of monster Tiger slam dunk or just old school ball movement from Clemson that led to good looks.

Clemson used a 12 point first half from PJ Hall & great offensive ball movement to head into half-time up 42-28.The Tigers also shot the ball well from everywhere on the floor, shooting 4-9 (44.4%) from deep, 15-31 (48.4%) & a smooth 8-10 (80%) from the charity stripe.

For the Lobos it was a different half offensively. As New Mexico shot just 12-35 (34.3%) from the floor, a horrid 2-11 (18.2%) & 2-4 on the few free throw attempts they managed during the first half. Nelly Junior-Joseph led the way with 8 points off of 4-5 shooting (80%) to go along with 7 rebounds.

Second Half

The Lobos didn’t find any better luck out of half-time. Missing their first two field goal attempts & a great luck from Donovan Dent down low resulting in a turnover on their next possession.

Clemson would go on a small 5-0 run thanks to a three pointer from Tiger big man Schieffelin to extend their lead to 47-30 in just a few minutes into the second half. He would also clean up a missed Girard III layup on the next possession with a couple of Lobo defenders slightly weighing him down. The Tiger’s effort on the offensive boards just added to the lopsided offensive affair that was this No. 6 vs. No. 11 seed matchup.

Junior-Joseph continued to go to work in the paint, missing his shot but heading to the line to make 1-2 free throws. Both sides would scoreless over the next few minutes before a Tru Washington three pointer ended the drought. House would take the ball nearly coast to coast on the next possession to lay it up for his first basket of the second half.

Even though the deficit still stood well over double digits, the game appeared a little more leveled approaching the ten minute mark. Unfortunately the lid went back on the Lobos’ hoop as Toppin would miss two free throws after some high energy rebounds sent him to the line.

Mashburn Jr. would make up for those misses with two makes at the line soon after, now down 54-40 before a Washington foul led to an official TV timeout.

Clemson found the bottom of the net on the next few possessions, including a three by Chase Hunter to get their bench up & going as well as extend the lead out to twenty at 62-42.

A couple of tough calls on House out of New Mexico’s full court press sent him to the bench. And even with shots continuing to ring out for the Lobos, they didn’t give up. Tru Washington contributed a three point play before a PJ Hall turnaround hook shot extended the lead right back to 19 points (64-45).

Even though the Lobos never appeared to have given up despite their double-digit deficit for 3/4’s of the way. They could never get over their cold shooting night. So the same offensive rhythms described above were set on repeat until the final buzzer. When Clemson used their 77-56 win over the Lobos to advance to their Second Round matchup against No. 3 Baylor on Sunday afternoon.

“Certainly the wrong day to go cold,” Pitino said. “We just couldn’t make a shot. Clemson had a lot to do with that. They’re big, they’re disciplined.”

Three Thoughts:

  • Clemson played a great game & looked primed to give New Mexico a hard time on the boards as well as offensively. Clemson’s sets & pressure caused frantic situations during Lobo possessions & forced a lot of shots from their guards that hardly went in. Even if Pitino’s squad were knocking down shots, the Tigers didn’t make a ton of mistakes for them to take advantage of. All in all, a good game from a good squad.

  • This Lobo squad was very different from those seen in recent years, even dating back to the Noodles era. The downside being the conference as a whole has elevated their play with them. But they still managed to steal a bid in the conference tournament this year, given the Selection Committee was actively trying to leave them out of the at-large conversation. They made Lobo basketball something to believe in again.

  • As it pertains to this individual game, nothing was falling for New Mexico. Looks that should have fallen, others that normally have a 50/50 chance looked more like 5/95. It was a tough outing to say the least. Especially after the tremendous run they had last week with plenty of eyes watching. I mean, March is March and anyone can win at any given time. That’s where we get the moniker March Madness from. Now, the program’s first trip back in a decade can be viewed as an ultimate “I knew this would happen” moment or as a great first step back to national competitiveness.

Player Spotlights:

Clemson F-Ian Schieffelin

Stat line: 16 points & 12 rebounds on 6-10 shooting (60%) from the floor & a whopping 3-4 (75%) from the free throw line in 27 minutes of play

There were plenty of big performances from the Tigers on Friday, but Schieffelin’s dominance in the paint & especially on the boards played a big role in their win.

Clemson’s Ian Schieffelin (4) shoots the ball during the first round game between Clemson University and University of New Mexico in the 2024 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., on Friday, March 22, 2024.

Mainly because the Lobos were only scoring in the paint at a certain point & his 8 defensive/4 offensive boards took those opportunities away from them. Not to mention he achieved that double double in just 27 minutes on the floor.

New Mexico F-Nelly Junior Joseph

Stat line: 14 points & 12 rebounds on 5-9 (55.5%) shooting from the floor & 4-7 (57.1%) shooting from the line in 34 minutes of play

Junior Joseph earned this spotlight as one of the few Lobos to have a respectable offensive stat line Friday afternoon. It was tough to see, but Junior Joseph gave it his all & didn’t look deterred by Clemson’s offensive onslaught.

Up Next:

Well, that’s all folks. A season to remember & one for the history books. This team will lose plenty of star power in the offseason, but this season gave Lobo fans something to look forward to. While hopefully creating a foundation for what the Pitino era can bring to Albuquerque.

Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.

Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire