No. 21 New Mexico will create a blank slate Saturday, asking its expected home crowd of 15,000 to dress in all white in order to provide a brilliant backdrop for a meeting with visiting UNLV in a Mountain West game at Albuquerque, N.M.
The Lobos (14-1, 2-1 Mountain West) are coming off their first loss of the season, a 71-67 decision Wednesday at Fresno State. They had been the last undefeated team in the nation.
Jamal Mashburn Jr. scored a game-high 22 points for the Lobos, while Morris Udeze added 18 points and seven rebounds. Jaelen House had 16 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Mashburn was part of the same starting lineup for the 15th straight game to open the season. He scored in double figures for the 36th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the Mountain West.
New Mexico was missing co-captain K.J. Jenkins (8.9 points per game), who sprained his ankle in last Saturday’s win at Wyoming. Jenkins could be ready to play Saturday.
Mashburn averages 17.5 points per game to lead New Mexico, while House scores at a 17.0-point clip. House is 29 for 60 (48.3 percent) from 3-point range.
“Let’s showcase The Pit, because it brings community involvement, it helps in recruiting and it’ll be a lot of fun,” New Mexico head coach Richard Pitino said. “We’re 14-1. I did not feel as though there was complacency. We could have won the (Fresno State) game, we just didn’t.”
UNLV (11-3, 0-2) hasn’t played a game since New Year’s Eve in a 76-67 home loss to San Diego State. The Rebels got a career-high 24 points from Luis Rodriguez and 18 from E.J. Harkless to go along with a season-high eight assists.
Harkless is scoring a team-best 16.0 points per game for UNLV, while Rodriguez averages 13.1. The Runnin’ Rebels’ Keshon Gilbert scores 12.5 points per game, while Rodriguez is the leading rebounder at 5.9 per outing.
Gilbert has been the focus of opposing defenses of late. Against San Diego State, he was held without a field goal (0 of 4 from the field) for the first time all season and was taken out of the game with the Rebels still in contention for a victory.
“Benched is kind of a harsh word for somebody who has been so good for us,” UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “I thought Jordan (McCabe) did a good job when he was out there, and I thought Keshon was maybe pressing a little bit.”
UNLV has forced at least 20 turnovers in nine of its 14 games this season and has at least one 3-pointer in an NCAA record 1,175 straight games.
“We are a team that hates losing so there’s a lot of frustration in the result,” Kruger said. “There was a stretch where they got a cushion, and we weren’t able to come back.”
–Field Level Media