No. 25 New Mexico Achieves Sweep of Wyoming On the Road, Winning 91-73 in Laramie

 Game Recap: No. 25 New Mexico 91, Wyoming 73

New Mexico sweeps Wyoming for the first time in three seasons.

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No. 25 New Mexico sweeps Wyoming after second double-digit win over the Cowboys this season.

Laramie, WY–The month of February is a special time of year. A time for love related holidays while also known for being the shortest month of the year. But maybe most importantly, it’s do or die time in conference play. And as far as must win games go, look no further than New Mexico’s trip north to face an always dangerous Wyoming team at home.

When Wyoming traveled to Albuquerque back in early January, they suffered a lopsided 77-60 loss in one of the toughest environments in the country. Since, the Cowboys have logged quality conference wins over rivals Colorado State & Nevada among others. Mostly due in part to the elevated play of Mason Walters & Brendan Wenzel to go along with the season long stellar play from Sam Grffin & Akuel Kot.

Both programs have split this regular season series the past two seasons. Including a double-digit avenging win by Jeff Linder’s squad inside the Pit by last Valentine’s day. Which happened during the Lobo’s Mountain West stretch without Jaelen House.

A healthy and dangerous New Mexico squad traveled to Laramie Tuesday night. Looking for their first sweep over the Cowboys since the 2019-2020 season, before Linder came to town. Something easier said than done as of late in an elevated Mountain West.

Things started off slow for both sides, with Wyoming missing their first five field goals and the Lobos committing two turnovers in the first few minutes of play. It wouldn’t last long as the Lobos took the early 9-3 lead soon after.

The Cowboys kept pounding the ball to Walters in the Paint, hoping to get him going early. Though in turn he missed all three of his field goals. An Akuel Kot three got Wyoming back in the game. Not to take all the credit, as New Mexico had five turnovers to that point. A Sam Griffin three pointer tied things up at 12 a piece at the 10:20 mark.

After a rare air ball by Jaelen House, he would drain his next to help end his team’s scoring drought. Both teams continued to trade buckets before the Lobos went on a 9-0 run to take the 33-20 lead with five minutes left in the first half.

Back-to-back Donovan Dent buckets combined with seven straight missed Cowboy field goals gave New Mexico the edge. Wyoming players looked winded in their own arena thanks to the Lobos’ elite offensive tempo just before half-time. They didn’t quit though. As a 5-0 Cowboy run after a timeout caused a Richard Pitino timeout of his own as momentum began to swing the other way.

It was enough to give New Mexico’s head man a bit of a scare but his squad still went into the locker room up 40-25 at the half.

Both teams began the second half quickly, with Mason Walters making only his second field goal of the night in the Cowboys opening possession. As Lobo freshman JT Toppin responded with a three pointer on the other end.

The Lobos would increase their lead with six straight points from Jamal Mashburn Jr. paired with a Jaelen House three as the cherry on top of that 9-0 run. Both teams would continue to trade buckets the rest of the way, but New Mexico’s lead stayed comfortably in the double-digits during that stretch.

Wyoming had a few runs which helped them shrink the Lobo lead to as little as 13 points as the game clocked chipped away, but it wasn’t enough. Thanks to that Lobo run mid-way through the first-half, the Cowboys never caught up.

It was a valiant effort though, with four Cowboys in double figures. Including 12 points & 7 rebounds from Cam Manyawu off of the bench for a quality 23 minutes. The freshman was joined by Akuel Kot (13 points), Sam Griffin (19 points) & Brendan Wenzel (20 points, read more below). As a whole Wyoming shot well with 27-67 (40.3%) made field goals but had a horrific night from beyond the arc on 6-26 (23.1%) shooting.

On the New Mexico side of things, they couldn’t miss. Shooting 45.1% from the field on a whopping 71 attempts, including shooting 13-35 (37%) from deep. Those 13 made three point field goals nearly tied their season high of 14 made against New Mexico State back in early December.

Five Lobos logged double-figures, Donovan Dent (19 points), Jamal Mashburn Jr. (15 points), Jaelen House (17 points), Mustapha Amzil (13 points) & a JT Toppin double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds). Giving him the record of most double-doubles by a freshman in a single season (8).

“It was a complete game. We built a lead and I thought they would throw a punch and they are really good offensively. We did a good job of sustaining it, getting some stops when we needed to and convert on the other end. I was concerned about this game. It is always a unique element with the elevation. I thought our guys were so locked in and were mature.” said Richard Pitino

These games may not feel super exciting, especially looking at a sparse crowd inside Arena-Auditorium Tuesday night. But at the end of the day, these are the games you have to win.

A loss to anyone outside of the top-half of the conference standings is nothing but a blotch on your resume at this point of the season. And the Lobos knew that. They also knew it could have been an entirely different outcome in Laramie, just ask Nevada and Colorado State. Kudos to New Mexico for winning a game they were predicted to win in more than convincing fashion.

Player Spotlights

New Mexico G-Donovan Dent

Stat line: 19 points, 7 assists on 8-13 (61.5%) from the floor in 36 minutes on the floor

Dent continues to show an ability to receive the ball on the offensive end and make it look like he’s the only one on the floor as he drives to the basket. He also continues to show the ability to stay hot as his teammates around him cool off along with an ever evolving game which including several pull up jumpers. An area in which he didn’t necessarily excel early in the season.

Dent’s 11 points were a big part of New Mexico’s first-half dominance after Wyoming kept things even in the first ten minutes or so of play. In the second-half his teammates stepped up in the scoring column, with plenty of credit going to dent with his 7 assists on the night. Not to mention his efforts defensively with 2 steals & 1 block in between all of that scoring.

Wyoming G/FBrendan Wenzel

Stat line: 20 points & 5 rebounds on 7-15 (46.6%) shooting from the floor, including 4-9 (44%) from deep in 39 minutes on the floor

Wenzel’s play as of late has helped give Wyoming their Cardiac Cowboys moniker and made them an opponent that keeps opposing fans on their seat until the final buzzer sounds. On Tuesday night it wasn’t enough, as his offensive absence in the first half hurt Wyoming from keeping up as New Mexico began to pull away.

A stellar second half performance made things sort of respectable. Ending the night with 20 points thanks to a monster shooting night, especially from beyond the arc.

Next Up:

The Lobos head back to Albuquerque to finish their week against UNLV on Saturday February 10th. New Mexico hosts the Runnin’ Rebels after a tough road loss to Kevin Kruger’s group in Las Vegas at the start of conference play.

It’s likely that the Lobos are looking to avenge that loss, this time facing UNLV on their home court. That game tips off at 6:00 PM MT and can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.

While the Cowboys stay in Laramie to host league leaders Utah State on Valentines day. Even with the Aggies dropping their last two games, they’re an NCAA Tournament team with plenty of weapons.

Wyoming will use their bye week to prepare for a home court upset, which has been common as of late inside the Arena-Auditorium. That matchup tips off at 8:00 PM MT 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