Seniors' moment: Lobos honor House, Mashburn and others before routing Fresno State

Mar. 6—Twelve seconds into Wednesday night's Lobo game in the Pit, Jamal Mashburn Jr. did the thing Richard Pitino brought him to New Mexico to do three years ago.

He scored, hitting a 3-pointer.

Two minutes, 43 seconds into the game, Jaelen House did the thing Pitino brought him to New Mexico to do three years ago.

He stole the ball and sprinted to the other end of the court for a fast break layup.



And winning.

A senior night honoring the two foundational pieces of UNM's three-season rebuild looked like Pitino had hoped when began to build a roster 36 months ago.

By the end of the night, the Lobos rolled to a 79-58 win over visiting Fresno State in front of an announced Pit crowd of 13,140 on what is the final scheduled game in the Pit for Lobo basketball — men's or women's — of the 2023-24 season.

"When we got the job," Pitino said after Wednesday's win, "we were 303 in the NET (rankings). We were not allowed to go recruiting. We got Jamal Mashburn Jr., Jaelen House — they never saw Albuquerque, had never been here. And they trusted what we were telling them and they've had phenomenal careers.

"We don't go from 303 in the NET, to top 30 (No. 29 as of Tuesday) in the NET, we don't go go from drawing about 9,000 or 8,000 (fans) a game to top 25 in the country in attendance if it's not for Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House. So, they've had awesome careers and hopefully we can finish it the right way."

Wednesday's win pushed UNM to 22-8 overall and 10-7 in Mountain West play — the first 22-win season since 2013-14 and helped the Lobos clinch their first winning league record since the 2017-18 season.

UNM is still alive for a first-round bye in next week's Mountain West Tournament and can finish as the five, six or seven seed (top five get a bye to the quarterfinals) as they head to Logan, Utah, on Saturday to play No. 22 Utah State, which clinched at least a share of the league title with its win Wednesday at San Jose State.

Fresno State falls to 11-19 overall and 4-13 in MW play.

House, an Arizona State transfer, and Mashburn, who followed Pitino to Albuquerque from Minnesota, were two of the four Lobo players (Jemarl Baker Jr. and Isaac Mushila the others) and one manager (Lucas Loe) who were honored in pregame ceremonies.

Once the game did start, it was a celebration from start to finish as the Lobos never trailed and by game's end emptied its bench in a blowout to end the home schedule.

Four Lobos scored in double figures, led by 19 from Mashburn. House had 10 points. The starting frontcourt of freshman JT Toppin (15 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Nelly Junior Joseph (12 points, 12 rebounds) each had double-doubles in the same game for the first time this season and the Lobos outrebounded the Bulldogs 54-35 and outscored them 38-18 in the paint.

HOUSE CLEANING: House missed a free throw at then end of the first half, which the Lobos led 37-24. He looked to the ref, insisting he had been hit, and slammed the court, getting whistled for a technical.

After the teams went to the locker room, the referee went to review the play and saw House had been hit in the groin area by Isaiah Hill.

The technical stood, but Hill's hit was deemed a flagrant 2 foul for excessive contact while not making a play on the ball. He was ejected.

ATTENDANCE: Wednesday's crowd gave UNM an average home attendance this season of 13,042. That would rank 23rd in the nation as of Tuesday night.

Through nine Mountain West games, UNM averaged a league-best 14,190. All nine league home games were the top nine attended Mountain West games this season.

Planting a seed ...

After Wednesday's games, the Lobos are locked into the No. 5, 6 or 7 seed in next week's Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.

The top five seeds get a bye into the quarterfinal round, which begins Thursday, March 14. Seeds 6 through 11 start in the first round on Wednesday, March 13.

5 SEED: UNM is the 5 seed IF they beat Utah State AND Boise State beats San Diego State. The 5 seed starts the MW Tournament playing the No. 4 seed in the quarterfinals.

6 SEED: UNM is the 6 seed if Colorado State loses to Air Force on Saturday AND New Mexico wins at Utah State. If CSU wins and UNM loses and both are tied with a 10-8 record and having gone 1-1 against each other would come down to the winner of the Nevada/UNLV game. A Nevada win in that scenario would make UNM the No. 6 seed. The No. 6 seed plays the No. 11 seed in the first round with the winner there playing the No. 3 seed in the quarterfinals.

7 SEED: UNM is the 7 seed if Colorado State wins at Air Force on Saturday AND New Mexico loses at Utah State AND UNLV beats Nevada. The No. 7 seed plays the No. 10 seed in the first round with the winner playing the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals.