Open Announce

Lobos Top Colorado State 74-61 to Reach Mountain West Final

by Steve Kirkland

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The New Mexico men’s basketball team advanced to the Mountain West Tournament final with a 74-61 semifinal victory over Colorado State on Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Lobos (25-9) become the first team in conference history to win three games to reach the final after the victory over the Rams (24-10).

Jaelen House led New Mexico with 19 points to go with eight assists and no turnovers. JT Toppin nearly had another double-double, posting 16 points and nine rebounds, while Nelly Junior Joseph also just missed one with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Mustapha Amzil added 10 points off the bench.

The Lobos got off to a quick start with an 11-0 run over the game’s first four minutes of play. The Rams answered with a 9-2 run to cut the margin to 13-9 with 13:30 to play. The Lobos led 17-13 at the midway point of the half before the Rams tied the game at 23-23 with 7:20 left. UNM used an 8-0 run over the final six minutes of the half to break a tie and lead 33-25 at the break. House led the Lobos with nine points and five assists in the first half.

In the second half, the teams traded baskets for several minutes as UNM continued to lead by eight after four minutes of play. A triple from Jemarl Baker, Jr. with 12:55 left pushed the Lobo advantage to 51-36 as UNM led 55-40 at the midway point. The lead was as large as 16 with 9:00 to play before the Rams used a 12-3 run to cut the margin to 61-54 with 4:45 to play. Back-to-back baskets by Toppin gave UNM a double-digit lead again, 65-54, with 3:25 left in the game. The Lobos led by as many as 13 in the final minutes as they closed out the 74-61 victory.

• New Mexico advances to its seventh Mountain West final, its first since 2018, looking for its fifth title (2005, 2012, 2013, 2014)
• The Lobos have won three straight postseason games by double figures for the first time in program history
• Over the first 120 minutes of the tournament, UNM has led for 115:30 and trailed for 0:42
• Nelly Junior Joseph grabbed his 1,000th career rebound
• Jamal Mashburn, Jr. (1,602 points) became the fourth Lobo to score over 1,600 points over a three-year span, joining Ruben Douglas, Charles Smith and Luc Longley
• The Lobos had nine blocks to set a program record for blocks in a conference tournament game, breaking the previous record of seven, set the night before against Boise State

“Another great win. I love how we have turned into a terrific defensive team during this tournament. We have gotten better and better with each game. Colorado State is a team that doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and shoots a high percentage, and we were able to do both. I am proud of our guys and we get a chance to go against a great team tomorrow and play for a championship.” – Richard Pitino

The Lobos advance to the Mountain West championship to play No. 5 seed San Diego State on Saturday. The Aztecs upset No. 1 seed Utah State, 86-70 in the other semifinal. Game time at the Thomas & Mack Center is 3:00 pm PT (4:00 pm MT) and the game will air on CBS.