New Mexico Steals 83-82Road Win From Nevada, Thanks to Jamal Mashburn Jr.

 Game Recap: New Mexico 83, Nevada 82

New Mexico sweeps Nevada for the first time since the Craig Neal era.

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New Mexico secures the sweep of Nevada with down to the wire road win in Reno.

Reno, NV–The name of the game this Mountain West season is, win. By any means necessary, on any court possible & any given night. Yes, that’s certainly plenty of any’s for just one article. But that is the only way to survive in this conference this season. As teams are prepared to win at home and on the road on any given night.

Given all of the history between New Mexico & Nevada over the years, fan bases tend to show out when the other Wolf related team comes to town. The last time these two teams met was not too long ago on January 28th, when the Lobos beat Steve Alford’s Wolf Pack 89-55 in front of a packed Pit in Albuquerque.

It was a tale of two shooting performances that night, as the Lobos could not miss. Logging 50% & above shooting numbers from the field, behind the arc & from the charity stripe. While Nevada struggled from all areas of the court.

That game could be notated as the tail end of the Lobos dominant run in the Mountain West. It was also the first win for New Mexico over Nevada in nine previous meetings to go along with being the program’s first win over their former Head Coach, the proverbial cherry on top of the silver sundae.

This far into February though, both teams find themselves fighting for their own post season hopes. Even the Wolf Pack who are coming off of two impressive quad one wins over Top-25 ranked Colorado State & San Diego State just last week.

For both benches, the stakes were high inside the Lawlor Events Center Tuesday night, with eyeballs around the nation staying up late to see Nevada defend their home against New Mexico in the “Biggest Little City on Earth”.

The Lobos started as quick as they began the last time these two met. Taking a 5-2 lead with a Jaelen House three pointer. Both squads would miss a few shots until a Nick Davidson layup gave Nevada their first lead of the game. Back-to-back 4-0 runs on both sides kept things leveled at 11 a piece before a media timeout.

That media driven timeout cooled things down. As both sides received scoring from four different players in those first five minutes of action. Someone didn’t notify Jaelen House, as a quick steal & layup out of the break caused another timeout just seconds later. This time by the Nevada coaching staff.

After another Davidson layup in the paint, Jemarl Baker Jr. knocked down a much needed three pointer. That along with a defensive stop on the other end gave way for a Donovan Dent layup. The Lobos would go on to outscore their hosts 9-5 after that. With yet another Baker Jr. three pointer giving New Mexico a little cushion in their biggest lead of the game.

That lead only continued to grow, with a Mashburn Jr. three pointer increasing it to double digits (32-22) with 6:36 left in the first half.

Nevada wouldn’t stay down for long, not in their own house. Scoring seven points, including a Tre Coleman three pointer which shrunk the lead back down to single digits. But the Lobos answered back, with their long running backcourt duo of House & Mashburn Jr. chipping in four more points to get their lead back to a favorable place.

Each team gave it all they had until the half-time buzzer, as Jarod Lucas scored four straight points to keep his Wolf Pack within striking distance. It was enough to keep his team in the game. But a Mustapha Amzil three pointer was the last bucket before the half, to give New Mexico the 45-35 lead heading into halftime.

Things were pretty leveled on each side. With similar shooting totals, & longtime friends Jaelen House leading his team with 11 points & Jarod Lucas with 8 of his own. Something unexpected was New Mexico’s shooting performance at half-time, knocking down 5-8 three pointers to help give them the 10 point lead.

Nevada started scoring quickly, with a Coleman pull up jumper opening up scoring in the first possession of the second-half. One of three field goals made in the first minute of play.

The Wolf Pack wouldn’t stop there, going on a 7-0 run after having sent Lobo JT Toppin to the free throw line to make the three point play. That 7-0 run shrank the New Mexico lead to just four (48-44), their smallest deficit since the ten minute marker in the first half.

The Wolf Pack’s hot shooting on their home floor to open the half continued. With a Kenan Blackshear pull up, followed by a Nick Davidson dunk down low bringing Nevada to within one point of the Lobo lead (49-48). Prompting a much needed Richard Pitino timeout.

After the break, the two squads stayed neck and neck. Until back-to-back layups by Toppin combined with another from fellow freshman Tru Washington helped the Lobos create some cushion in their lead. Going up 58-52 before Nevada called a timeout of their own. After several misses on each side, a pair of Washington steals would lead to a pair of Donovan Dent field goals.

With the lead back to double-digits (62-52), a media timeout couldn’t have come sooner for Coach Alford. His team responded well, making shots & making New Mexico earn theirs at the charity stripe (next 4 Lobo points, come from Mashburn Jr. FTs).

But in the face of continuous comeback attempts from their hosts, New Mexico stayed composed. With Amzil’s second three pointer of the night helping widen their lead, only for a Jarod Lucas three on the other end to help close it yet again.

As both teams approached the five minute mark, a pair of Daniel Foster free throws brought the Wolf Pack back to within four. New Mexico would fail to capitalize on their next two possessions. Ultimately sending Kenan Blackshear to the line to tie things up at 71-71 with 4:43 left in the game. Nevada would take their first lead of the second-half shortly after, with Toppin sending Davidson to the line for two easy free throws.

A much needed Amzil three pointer gave New Mexico back their lead (74-73). Which was a part of a clutch performance off of the bench from the Finnish big man (12 points in 21 minutes), who went 3-6 from deep against Nevada.

There would be two more ties after that, at 75 & 77 a piece before a defensive blunder would nearly turn the tides.

A Jaelen House foul on Jarod Lucas beyond the arc sent the sharpshooter to the line for three easy ones. Giving Nevada the 80-77 lead with under two minutes to play. House would go on to miss a three pointer on the other end, but New Mexico would retain the ball.

In comes the Mountain West magic & after being subbed out only seconds prior, in comes Jamal Mashburn Junior. Draining a three pointer that would silence the crowd inside the Lawlor Events Center while tying the game at 80-80. Get ready for the tweets.

If that wasn’t enough to keep Mountain West spectators on the edge of their seat, Nevada would take the lead after another Davidson layup with just thirty seconds to go. No one called a timeout, as offensive maestro Donovan Dent was entrusted to put the ball on the hardwood & drove to the basket only to find one of his team’s best scorers ready for the ball.

A slight lapse in defensive coverage by the Wolf Pack left Mashburn Jr. briefly open in the upper corner. As the clutch shooting guard came under pressure, he fired.

With Mashburn Jr.’s clutch three pointer, he was subbed right back out for the larger Baker Junior. Tasked with preventing a shot that Lobo fans were all too familiar with, a Kenan Blackshear final possession game winner.

With that miss New Mexico earned the 83-82 road win, another quad 1 win & their first sweep over Nevada since the 2015-2016 season.

It was truly a night for scoring in Reno. With New Mexico receiving double-digit scoring from five different players, including Nelly Junior-Joseph’s fifth double-double of the season (11 points, 13 rebounds). While Nevada had four players in double figures, led by 19 point performances from Nick Davidson & Jarod Lucas.

Player Spotlights

Nevada FNick Davidson

Stat line: 19 points & 7 rebounds & 2 blocks on 8-15 (53.3%) shooting from the floor, including 3-3 (100%) from deep in 35 minutes on the floor

To choose just one Wolf to highlight after tonight’s edge of your seat game was difficult. I could have easily pointed to Lucas’s offensive efficiency or Blackshear’s ability to get to the free throw line all night while also dishing out 7 assists. But, I don’t think Nevada even comes close to taking New Mexico down to the wire if it wasn’t for Davidson’s play in the post.

Shooting above 53.5% against one of the more talented & lengthy frontcourts in the conference isn’t easy. And Davidson managed to do so with consistency while also challenging for boards & making some clutch free throws when needed.

Playing at maybe Nevada’s shallowest position on the depth chart, the sophomore is vital to their success.

New Mexico G-Jamal Mashburn Jr.

Stat line: 17 points on 4-7 (57.1%) from the floor, including 3-3 (100%) from deep & 6-6 (100%) from the line in just 23 minutes on the floor

Mashburn Jr. definitely deserves his flowers for Tuesday night’s performance in Reno. He was quiet but efficient for most of the game, only logging 23 total minutes on the floor.

As Coach Pitino continuously subbed him in & out, in favor of size to try in order to find their defensive edge. That didn’t shake the mental toughness of this senior guard.

He returned to the floor time & time again to contribute in a highly efficient way. Ending the night shooting 100% from both the free throw line & from deep range. That deep range performance was vital to New Mexico’s win. As they’ve struggled with effective three point shooting all season.

If you would have asked me Tuesday morning if the Lobos would win tonight’s game off of back-to-back three pointers, I would have offered you a coffee to sober up. But big players show up in big moments, and no Lobo stands taller tonight than Jamal Mashburn Junior.

Three Takeaways:

  • After getting swept by UNLV last Saturday with that tough loss at home, New Mexico needed this win. Not only for their morale & momentum to finish out the season, but for their tournament resume. The sweep of Nevada this season is also significant, having not done so in nearly eight years. Not to mention beginning a two game winning streak against their former Head Coach. A second straight win this week in San Diego could be the momentum this team needs heading into a brutal second half of February.

  • Jamal Mashburn Jr. has been overshadowed this season. With the surge in production from sophomore Donovan Dent & the always crowd pleasing & energetic Jaelen House sharing the back court with him, minutes along with praise are sometimes scarce. His team high of 17 points to go along with those two clutch three pointers to win the game for his squad on the road are huge. His confidence & production along with others on this team like Amzil, Junior-Joseph, Washinton & Baker Jr. will be needed come tournament time & to finish strong the rest of the conference season.

  • Nevada played very well Tuesday night against New Mexico. Boasting a three game winning streak coming into this one, which includes back-to-back wins over Top-25 opponents in conference front runners Utah State & perennial powerhouse San Diego State just last week. Even after the loss, they made the correct adjustments throughout the game, which eventually led to them taking control in the closing minutes. The Wolf Pack appear primed & ready to compete for their spot in the Big Dance come March. I can’t wait to see this team thrive going forward, with a favorable stretch to overcome.

Next Up:

The Lobos only get three days off & stay on the road to hopefully finish their week 2-0. With a rare Friday night game against San Diego State on February 16th. New Mexico could secure two sweeps over two of their more problematic conference foes this year. It’s a tall task but remember, any team on any night.

The Lobos haven’t swept the Aztecs since 2017. Which happened to be Craig Neal’s last season in Albuquerque & it was still called Wise Pies Arena back then. That game tips off at 8:00 PM MT and can be seen on FS1.

While the Wolf Pack stay in Reno to host their southern in-state rivals, UNLV. The first game in the hardwood edition of the Battle for Nevada takes place on Saturday February 17th.

This rivalry may have seen some better days with UNLV’s inconsistency & NCAA Tournament drought over their last decade or so. Both programs are attempting to fight their way out of their mid-table positions.

But have proven their lethality to other team’s tournament hopes this season. That matchup tips off at 8:30 PM PT and can be seen on FS1.

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