Christopher Trim/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

LAS VEGAS — The New Mexico Lobos had already made history in just reaching the Mountain West Conference championship game by just its mere appearance in the game on Saturday night. More history will be made less than 24 hours from now, when its name is guaranteed to appear on Selection Sunday after a stirring late-came spurt propelled the Lobos to a tournament championship.

Jaelen House capped off a tremendous conference tournament with 28 points while his backcourt mate Jamal Mashburn chipped in with 21 as No. 7 seed New Mexico defeated defending champion and fifth-seeded San Diego State 68-61 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game inside the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday. The Lobos secured the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with the victory, which will mark their first time in the Big Dance since the last time they won the Mountain West tournament back in 2014.

New Mexico was already the first team in conference history to reach the tournament final after winning three games in three days, and completed the rather-dominant four-day run to a title while trailing for a grand total of 7:20 in those quartet of contests.

“I am really proud of the guys in our locker room. They had so much belief the whole year. They came into this tournament playing confidently and we won in a variety of ways,” New Mexico head coach Richard Pitino said. “No one has ever won this tournament with four games in four nights. We never looked fatigued. San Diego State is a program that we have a lot of respect for. We knew we would have to raise our level of toughness and we did that. I am happy for our amazing fan base. I’m happy for the state of New Mexico and the city of Albuquerque because I know how much this means to them. They love college basketball.”

House had 15 of his points in the first half as New Mexico built a 14-point lead, at 32-18, late in the first half while never trailing in the first 20 minutes.

The Aztecs closed the gap to 36-30 at halftime, and eventually took their first lead at the 12:14 mark of the second half when a Reese Waters jumpers pulled San Diego State ahead at 44-43. Jaedon LeDee’s layup extended the lead to three before four straight free throws from Mashburn gave the Lobos the lead back.

With the game tied at 59, House made two free throws to start the decisive 8-0 run. A putback from JT Toppin putback with 2:29 left beat the shot clock to give New Mexico a 61-59 lead. Nelly Junior Joseph made a free throw before House completed a three-point play for a 65-59 lead with 1:20 to play. After a defensive stop, a Toppin bucket with 36 seconds left capped the 8-0 run and sent the Lobos on their way to completing their remarkable run through the tournament.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday’s event, with all photos taken by Las Vegas-area photographer Christopher Trim. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 56 pictures in total.


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Tags : College BasketballMountain West ConferenceNew Mexico LobosSan Diego State Aztecs

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