ABOVE: UNM portion of press conference starts at 4:10 mark
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Welcome back to Pit West, where the Lobos’ Mountain West Tournament run isn’t over.
And neither is the running.
Thanks to another strong finish against a team that ran out of gas at the end, the University of New Mexico won its first league tournament game in the careers of its two four-year seniors — Joe Furstinger and Sam Logwood — by running past the Wyoming Cowboys 85-75 on Thursday night in the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Pit West was just like we were playing in Albuquerque,” said Antino Jackson, a senior who was a graduate transfer and had 11 points, four assists and hit six of the Lobos’ 20 free throws (in 26 attempts) in the game.
“The fans were amazing here tonight, and I hope we get to do it again for them tomorrow night.”
The third-seeded Lobos (18-14), now winners of six consecutive games, will face on Friday night the No. 7 Utah State Aggies (17-16), upset winners earlier Thursday over No. 2 Boise State, 78-75.
While it wasn’t exactly the same record-setting performance they had when they last played Wyoming in Laramie and won 119-114, the Lobos led throughout and still largely had their way on offense against Wyoming. But they did it in a far more traditional way than their usual record-setting 3-point run and gun style.
“Overall if you told me we were going to do what we did at the free throw line, we were going to get 13 offensive rebounds, that’s a traditional offensive game,” Lobos head coach Paul Weir said. “It’s a little unusual for us, but maybe because they were taking away all those 3s, it allowed us to be more basic.”
It also allowed for far more fouls to be drawn as Lobo guards blew by extended Wyoming defenders on the perimeter and allowed Furstinger to go off for 23 points down low on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 free throw shooting. He added nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
The Lobos came out on fire, much to the delight of the raucous Lobo contingent of fans. The announced attendance in the Thomas & Mack for the evening session of quarterfinal games was 7,138.
Back-to-back 3s — one by Jackson and another by Anthony Mathis with 16:29 on the clock, gave UNM a 10-1 lead and force Wyoming to call its first timeout.
Five minutes later, when a Lobos 6-0 run pushed the lead to 22-9, Wyoming coach Allen Edwards called his second timeout with 11:28 still to play in the first half.
But the Cowboys chipped away at the deficit, scoring on Alan Herndon dunks on their first play out of each of those early timeouts and consistently attacking the rim against the undersized Lobos or kicking it out for an open 3-pointer.
UNM’s four-point halftime lead was down to two early in the second half, but every Wyoming threat was answered by a Lobos bucket.
Three Lobos scored in double figures, led by Furstinger.
“(I) just didn’t want this to be my last college game,” Furstinger said. “Me and coach we’ve been
close. Antino, we just didn’t want it to be our last game together.”
Furstinger’s three-point play on a layup and ensuing free throw with 2:39 to play sparked an 8-0 run the Lobos used to essentially close the game.
Troy Simons had 15 points and played solid defense throughout.
UNM’s final seven points came at the free throw line, and the Lobos out-rebounded Wyoming 38-27 and shot 49.2 percent in the game.
UNM’s 7-of-17 shooting from 3-point range snapped a 12-game streak of hitting at least 10 treys per game, but it hardly mattered this time.
Wyoming was led by 19 points from Alan Herndon, who was sick and limited to seven minutes in the game in Laramie. The Cowboys’ 1-2 all-league punch of Hayden Dalton (12 points) and Justin James (9 points) were held in relative check in the game.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SEMIFINALS: The Lobos and Utah State split their two games in the regular season. Utah State won 89-80 on Jan. 31 in Logan, and the Lobos won 78-63 at home on Feb. 14.
Sam Merrill, Utah State’s sophomore guard, hit 7-of-10 3-pointers on Thursday in the upset win over the Broncos and finished with 28 points and five assists. He averaged 25.5 vs. the Lobos in the regular season.
BOX SCORE: NEW MEXICO 85, WYOMING 75
MWC Semifinals: No. 7 Utah State vs. No. 3 New Mexico, 9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/94.5 FMAA
More from the tourney
CLICK HERE to read more notes from the tournament, including Weir saying he will make his team run Friday morning even though they have a game on Friday night.