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Lobos Post 81-73 Victory Over Air Force

by Steve Kirkland

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The No. 25 New Mexico men’s basketball team rallied in the second half to post an 81-73 victory over Air Force on Friday night at The Pit. The Lobos (19-3, 6-3 MW) came back from a four-point deficit with 12:00 to play to defeat the Falcons (12-10, 3-6 MW) and eclipse their Mountain West win total from last season by the midway point of conference play.

Jamal Mashburn, Jr. had a game-high 24 points, becoming just the 11th Lobo in history to post six consecutive 20-point games. Jaelen House had 19 points to go with four assists and six steals, while Morris Udeze had 15 points and eight rebounds.

The Lobos started the game by grabbing an early lead, 7-4, over the opening four minutes of play. House had eight straight points in an 10-0 run as the Lobos took a 15-4 lead with 14:40 left in the half. New Mexico held a 23-16 advantage at the midway point of the half before the Falcons used a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 26-23 with 6:45 left in the half. A Lobo 8-0 run, the last six coming from Mashburn, pushed the advantage to 38-26 with 4:00 left in the half. A late Falcon rally would cut the UNM lead to 43-34 at halftime as Mashburn had 12 points and House had 11 points to lead the Lobos.

In the second half, the Falcons used an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 45-44 with 16:40 to play. Air Force took its first lead of the game, 51-49, with 13:30 left to play and would push the advantage to 53-49 with 12:00 to go, its largest lead of the game. New Mexico retook the lead, 55-54, with 10:30 to go before the Falcons held a 56-55 lead at the midway point. The teams traded the lead over the next few minutes with Air Force leading 65-62 with 6:20 to play.  Five straight points from Mashburn gave UNM a 67-65 lead with 4:45 to play before a House steal and layup made the score 69-65 with 4:20 to go. The lead was pushed to five with just under 4:00 to play before the Lobos led 76-68 with 2:09 to play. Mashburn’s layup with 35.1 seconds left made the score 78-70 before a Falcon triple cut the lead to five with 20.1 to go. The Lobos sealed the 81-73 win at the line in the final seconds with three free throws from Mashburn.

The crowd of 15,143 marked the third game of at least 15,000 this season at The Pit
• New Mexico improved to 123-7 all-time in The Pit when ranked in the AP poll
• Mashburn became the 36th player in program history to score 1,000 points as a Lobo
• Mashburn scored in double figures for the 43rd consecutive game, the longest active streak in the Mountain West and second-longest active streak in the nation

“It was a terrific win. It kind of went how I thought it would go. I think Air Force is much improved. They were running their stuff to perfection in the second half. They were getting backdoors and we needed to settle in. We were able to calm down a little after they got up four and were able to come back and pull away at the end. The building was amazing. The worst thing I want to do is let these fans down when they pack this place with over 15,000 on a Friday night. We needed to find a way to get it done. Mash was terrific, Morris was really good in the second half and we got stops and rebounds when we needed to.” – Richard Pitino

New Mexico will return action on Wednesday with a visit to Utah State. Game time in Logan is 8:30 p.m. and the game will air on FS1.