No. 21 New Mexico has already won more games than it did all last season and is just one of two teams nationally not to lose a game, the other being top-ranked Purdue.
The Lobos aim to continue their magical season when they visit Fresno State on Tuesday night in Mountain West play.
New Mexico (14-0, 2-0 MW) certainly hasn’t played a taxing schedule — Saint Mary’s and SMU head the list of teams it beat — while compiling the second-best start in program history. The 1967-68 Lobos won their first 17 games.
New Mexico opened Mountain West play last week with an 88-69 home win over Colorado State on Wednesday and squeaked out a 76-75 road win at Wyoming on Saturday.
“We have a refuse-to-lose mentality,” Lobos guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. said after the win over Wyoming. “Overall, we were able to stick through it.”
Mashburn scored 20 points against the Cowboys and made two free throws with 17.7 seconds left to give New Mexico the lead. Jaelen House (16 points, five steals, three blocked shots), Josiah Allick (15 points, career-best 15 rebounds) and reserve KJ Jenkins (14 points) also had solid games.
Second-year coach Richard Pitino took over a program that went 6-16 in 2020-21 and guided the Lobos to a 13-19 mark last season.
Now Pitino has New Mexico among the biggest surprises in the nation despite the close call in Laramie, Wyo.
“They all can’t be beautiful,” Pitino said of the win. “Sometimes you need to go on the road and make one more play than them. … I’m really proud of our guys to be sitting at 14-0.”
House leads the Lobos in scoring (17.2), assists (5.3) and total steals (35) and is making a stellar 50 percent of his 3-point attempts (27 of 54). Morris Udeze averages 16.9 points and a team-leading 7.8 boards, while Mashburn also averages 16.9 points.
Fresno State (5-8, 1-1) will be aiming to defeat New Mexico for the seventh consecutive time. The Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 13 meetings.
Fresno State is coming off a 67-54 road loss against Utah State on Saturday. Jemarl Baker Jr. scored 20 points for the second consecutive game, but the Bulldogs shot just 37.3 percent from the field, made only 4 of 20 3-point attempts and were outrebounded 37-23.
“Proud of the guys for how hard they played,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said afterward. “It was the run in the first half, and it was transition defense. They got back and got open threes, and that’s what hurt us. We’ll watch that and see who the culprits were and how we can get better.”
It was the fourth straight game in which the Bulldogs scored fewer than 60 points. Fresno State has scored more than 70 points just twice and averages 60.7 points per game.
Baker leads the Bulldogs with an 11.8 average, while Isaih Moore chips in with 11.6 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds. Moore has collected 10 or more boards on four occasions this season.
–Field Level Media