Aggies players suggest Lobos quit in 100-65 loss for the ages
LAS CRUCES — So maybe this whole deflections-in-practice thing to determine starting lineups isn’t working.
Or maybe it’s just the Aggies.
Then again, it could be something else altogether, something that will peel back like a rotted onion as the season unfolds.
In any case, the heart and soul of the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team can be legitimately questioned after Tuesday’s epic beatdown at the hands of New Mexico State in the Pan American Center. The Lobos (4-2) were dominated in every facet of the game and were never in it, getting exposed inside and out by an Aggies program that has seized control of the Rio Grande Rivalry in a way not many could have predicted coming into the season.
NMSU (7-1) led by double digits midway through the first half, by 30 before halftime and by as many as 41 before the final horn en route to a 100-65 cakewalk against their upstate rivals. It goes down as the seventh-biggest margin of victory in a rivalry that dates to 1904.
It would have been tied for the third-biggest were it not for a 5-0 Lobos run to end the game.
Aggies Eli Chuha and JoJo Zamora suggested afterward that the Lobos basically quit in the first half, a claim UNM head coach Paul Weir didn’t verify — but didn’t exactly shoot down, either.
“I felt like, you know, we made them give up a little bit, the way we were playing defense and stuff,” Chuha said.
“I didn’t necessarily feel that,” Weir said, trying to pinpoint a specific reason why the game out of control so fast and so easily.
It could be the frigid 4-for-23 shooting to start the game. Or getting out rebounded 24-8 during that same span. Or foul trouble, or turnovers, or poor execution.
Down 11-0 out of the gate for the second straight game, UNM never had a chance. It was 42-12 late in the first half, a margin so great that it diluted the enthusiasm of the 6,777 fans who came to watch.
Chuha had his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Ivan Aurrecoechea had 23 and 11, dominating the game in the low post with what seemed like endless opportunities that led to 11 free throws and 6-for-7 shooting.
Zamora had 27 points, hitting on all six of his 3-point tries. Basically, everyone who played had an impact.
The list went on and on, so long that Weir dropped more than a half dozen descriptive words to try an explain it; things like “sick,” “humiliating,” “humbling” and “embarrassing.”
So were Chuha and Zamora right? Did the Lobos actually give up?
“I didn’t feel that, I didn’t coach that, I didn’t necessarily get that from anybody on our team or on our bench,” Weir said. “But I guess in looking at it, one’s open to that opinion, and based on the score and the way it went, I guess you couldn’t say no, from just an observer looking at it.”
The signs came early for UNM. A pregame scuffle involving Lobos big man Corey Manigault led to his early benching for a similar instance he faced last week when he got in Weir’s dog house.
Manigault played just eight minutes and got his only points on a transition 3-pointer 10 minutes into the game. He never got off the bench in the second half and, afterward, Weir said it was more of the same issues he and his 6-foot-9 post player had.
The hits didn’t stop there. Tuesday’s win marked the Aggies’ fifth straight win against UNM, their longest streak against the cherry and silver in 62 years. Before the game, the NMSU students waved fake dollar bills with Weir’s face on them, then chanted “Judas” as he walked by before pregame introductions.
In no small way this was a Lobo loss for the ages — and the novelty of it wasn’t lost on Weir, the former NMSU coach who is now 0-4 against his former team since leaving after the 2016-17 season.
“We’ll see how we respond to this,” he said. “In a weird way, I hope it’s some kind of an in-state Paul Weir whatever anomaly and the rest of our season and games can go a particular way, and then I have to find a way to coach or lead differently in these games.”
After some reflection, he tried to make sense of it all by saying, “I actually hope that’s the case, as weird as that may sound. But maybe it’s not, maybe this exposed some things that are going to continue to unravel and we have to adjust as a team.”
NMSU head coach Chris Jans is 8-0 against arch rivals UNM and UTEP. “From my first interview, it was made very clear to the folks in the room how important these games were to the fan base, the administration, the community,” he said. … Jans has also picked up $25,000 in bonuses this season; $10,000 for the sweeps of New Mexico and UTEP and another $5,000 for a win over a Big-Five team (Washington State). The Aggies play at No. 2 Kansas on Saturday, giving him a shot at another $5,000. … The Lobos were just 8-for-31 inside the 3-point line in Tuesday’s game. Freshman Drue Drinnon had a team-high 13 points. Karim Ezzeddine and Vance Jackson each had 11. … Anthony Mathis was one of the country’s top 3-point shooters coming in to the game, but he was held to five points on 1-for-8 shooting. … The Lobos were outrebounded 50-28.
As ugly as Tuesday’s outcome was, it wasn’t quite the most one-sided defeat in the long history of the New Mexico State-New Mexico basketball rivalry, which started in 1904:
59 — Aggies 85, Lobos 26 (Feb. 10, 1939)
48 — Lobos 86, Aggies 38 (Dec. 10, 1964)
40 — Lobos 50, Aggies 10 (Feb. 26, 1926)
37 — Aggies 96, Lobos 59 (Jan. 4, 1959)
37 — Lobos 92, Aggies 55 (Dec. 14, 1963)
37 — Aggies 57, Lobos 20 (Feb. 21, 1919)
35 — Aggies 100, Lobos 65 (Tuesday)
32 — Lobos 48, Aggies 16 (Feb. 15, 1930)
31 — Aggies 103, Lobos 72 (Dec. 5, 2006)
31 — Aggies 39, Lobos 8 (Feb. 28, 1919)
31 — Lobos 49, Aggies 18 (Feb. 28, 1927)
Friday: New Mexico (4-2) vs. St. Mary’s (4-4), , 5 p.m.
Radio: KKOB-AM 770 and KVSF-AM 1400
Live stats: www.golobos.com