UNM men advance to semifinals of MW tourney

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By The Staff

For the first time since 2014, The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team has advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament. The No. 3 seed Lobos (18-14) claimed a 10-point victory over No. 6 seed Wyoming (20-13) by a score of 85-75 to extend their win streak to six on Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The victory marks UNM’s first win in the Mountain West Championships since 2014 when it took the tournament title as the No. 2 seed. The Lobos also mark the first No. 3 seed to reach the championship semifinals since 2015. With UNM’s victory, No. 3 seeds are now 9-10 all-time in the quarterfinal round.

The Lobos will face No. 7 seed Utah State on Friday night at 9:30 p.m. MT / 8:30 p.m. PT. The teams split this season.

After UNM suffered an 89-80 road loss on Jan. 31, UNM rallied for a 78-63 Valentine’s Day victory at The Pit.

“I thought Wyoming really fought all game. I don’t think the margin between us is very big. We’re two very close teams ... They just wouldn’t go away,” head coach Paul Weir said. “But fortunately we were able to get enough stops and that is something we haven’t done a great job of, particularly lately. We were able to get stops down the stretch and keep them at bay and thankfully come out with a victory.”

Senior Joe Furstinger, who earned his first MW tournament victory of his career on the night, racked up a career-high 23 points going 8-for-13 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the free throw line. He also accumulated a game-high nine rebounds. He paced three scorers in double-digits including junior Troy Simons (15) and senior Antino Jackson (11).

“I just didn’t want this to be my last college game,” Furstinger said. “Me and coach we’ve been close, and Antino ... we just didn’t want it to be our last game together.”

The Lobos started off on fire and never trailed in the contest, getting out to a 10-1 lead just 3:30 into the contest. UNM extended its lead to 13, 22-9, at the 10:55 mark in the first half which was ultimately the largest lead of the game.

The Lobos still led by double-figures with 7:51 on the clock before a pair of 3-pointers (with a Sam Logwoodlayup in between) cut the UNM lead to just six, 28-22, with 6:56 to play. The second 3-pointer, off the hands of Wyoming’s Hayden Dalton, sparked a 6-0 run that made it a 3-point game, 28-25 with 6:03 left in the first half.

The Cowboys got the deficit as low as two at the 4:34 mark on a 3-pointer by Cody Kelley but the Lobos battled and ended the first period on a pair of Antino Jackson free throws for a four-point advantage heading into halftime, 39-35.
Wyoming opened the second half on another 3-pointer from Kelley to cut the Lobo lead to just one before UNM began to climb back out and extend its lead. A three from junior Chris McNeal made it a nine-point lead for UNM, 55-46, with 15 minutes left on the clock.

The Lobos extended the lead back to double-digits with 6:09 left, 73-63 but over the ensuing 1:21, the Cowboys whittled it back to three, 74-71 on another three from Dalton. They did it again with 2:55 left, 76-73.

UNM closed the final 2:55 with a jumper from Furstinger and seven free throws to just a pair of free throws for Wyoming for the 85-75 final.

The Lobos shot 49.2 percent on the night compared to 48.3 percent for Wyoming. UNM also shot a higher percentage from behind the arc, 41.2-34.6. The Lobos were outscored in the paint 36-32 but accumulated 12 points off of 12 turnovers and dominated off of the bench, 47-17.