SAN DIEGO, Calif. — An announced sellout crowd of 12,414 — minus a few hundred who showed up wearing Lobo gear — aimed their relentless boos, jeers and pure venom down on one person on Steve Fisher Court.
Jaelen House, the UNM point guard wearing the black cowboy hat and eating up every moment, went off for 29 points — 21 in the second half and 10 of 12 in a decisive second-half run that led the Lobos to stun No. 23 San Diego State, 76-67, on Saturday night at Viejas Arena.
“It’s gotta be like that,” said House. “I don’t like them and they don’t like me. … I don’t know what it is. I just like big time moments.”
The Lobos improved to 16-2 on the season and 3-2 in Mountain West play, handing the Aztecs (13-4, 4-1 MWC) their first league loss of the season.
A year after the Lobos lost in the same building by 25 points in a game the Aztecs physically manhandled UNM’s depleted roster, House was hardly the only one hoping to prove a point on Saturday against the perennial league favorite Aztecs.
House’s 29-point, six-rebound, four-steal performance was accompanied by 22 points by Jamal Mashburn Jr. and a 10-point, 15-rebound game from transfer power forward Morris Udeze.
The Lobos jumped out to as much as an 11-point lead in the opening half and led 38-28 at the break. But the energy in the arena, and from the veteran Aztecs, wasn’t about to let the visitors just run away with it.
SDSU closed the gap quickly in the second half. A pair of Micah Parrish free throws with 9:23 left in the game put SDSU up 49-48 — their first lead since it was 2-0.
But while the arena was buzzing for the SDSU run (21-10 in the half at that point), it was about one minute later when the drama really began to unfold.
Former MWC Defensive Player of the year Nathan Mensah was called for his fourth foul in the lane on Morris Udeze with 8:20 left. He immediately reacted by stepping in frustration toward referee Gerry Pollard, earning a technical and fouling out.
House hit two free throws for the technical, retaking the lead for UNM 50-49. Then the Lobos inbounded the ball, leading to a House 3-pointer and a five-point UNM possession for a 53-49 lead.
A Mashburn bucket then five more House points later and UNM’s 12-0 run and a 60-49 lead had House in his element, egging on the boos and frustrating the Aztecs.
“Frustration’s a big part of everything we do in sports,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said after the game. “And we’re frustrated we didn’t get a win today.”
Pitino said of his polarizing point guard, “I said to our staff, it’s like he’s like a wrestler in WWE. He’s, like, relishing this. But that fuels him. He’s just got to get to that line and stop.”
He didn’t quite do that, though.
After another House 3-pointer to put UNM up 63-50 with 5:13 left, he was then called for a technical for too much chatter — something the referees had been warning him about.
That, like he delivered to SDSU just three minutes prior, led to a five-point possession for SDSU — two technical free throws from Adam Seiko and then a Seiko 3, cutting the UNM lead to 63-55.
But the momentum was already back in the hands of the Lobos, and the margin was never closer than four down the stretch.
UNM had a season-low five assists.
BOX SCORE: New Mexico 76, San Diego State 67
Un Ms Dsu 190536 by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK: For more notes, stats and analysis from Saturday’s game, read the Emptying the Notebook column.
Emptying the Notebook: UNM’s House and Mashburn show is on a mission
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