Open Announce

Lobos Advance to Mountain West Quarterfinals with 82-56 Win Over Air Force

by Steve Kirkland

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The New Mexico men’s basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of 2024 Mountain West Tournament with an 82-56 victory over Air Force on Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center. The sixth-seeded Lobos (23-9) posted its largest margin of victory in the tournament with the 26-point win over the Falcons (9-22).

JT Toppin led New Mexico with 18 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. Jaelen House added 16 points, while Tru Washington celebrated his birthday with 14 points off the bench. Jamal Mashburn, Jr. had 10 points and Donovan Dent had a team-high nine assists.

The Lobos got off to a strong start offensively to lead 10-5 after three minutes of play. UNM used a 12-2 run to extend the lead to 22-9 with 11:15 to play in the half. The lead was 24-12 at the midway point of the half before the Lobos held a 31-15 lead with 7:30 left to play. UNM’s advantage grew to 36-18 with 6:00 to go before eight straight points by the Falcons cut the margin to 10 with 4:15 left. That was as close as Air Force would get in the half as House’s three at the buzzer gave the Lobos a 49-30 lead at the break. That three gave House a team-high 16 first-half points.

In the second half, UNM held Air Force scoreless over the first three minutes to extend the margin to 22 points. The Lobos used a 7-0 run midway through the half to extend the margin to 63-35 with 10 minutes to play. New Mexico’s lead grew to as many as 35 with 5:30 to go before the Lobos closed out the 26-point victory.

• The 26-point win was UNM’s largest margin of victory in the Mountain West Tournament and the largest in a conference tournament since a 103-70 win over San Jose State in the 1997 WAC 1st Round
• Toppin had six offensive rebounds to give him 113 for the season, setting a new school record (Drew Gordon had 108 offensive boards in 2011-12)
• Toppin became just the third Lobo freshman to score 400 points (408 this season), joining Kenny Thomas (484 in 1995-96) and Kendall Williams (406 in 2010-11)
• House moved into the top 15 of career scoring at UNM (now in 14th place with 1,473 points)
• The 19-point halftime lead was UNM’s largest halftime lead in a Mountain West Tournament game

“I loved our energy and our toughness. We were +20 on the glass and I loved the way we shared the ball with 21 assists. Overall, it was as complete of a performance as we have had in a while. All around it was a good 40-minute effort and it was good to play some guys off the bench a little bit. Obviously, we are trying to do what every other team here is trying to do, and that’s win three more. It’s going to be hard, but it was a good start to the tournament tonight.” – Richard Pitino

The Lobos advance to the Mountain West quarterfinals to play No. 3 seed Boise State. Game time at the Thomas & Mack Center is 8:30 pm PT (9:30 pm MT) and the game will air on CBS Sports Network.