Went “Down” Purdue Monday night. Which means the introductions are in order.
Say hello to the New Mexico Lobos, the only team now in perfection.
“We have a refusal to lose mentality,” said young guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. of the 14-0 Lobos. Until now, anyway. Here are 17 things you should know about the last undefeated team in the land.
1. 55 years old
We’re mostly talking about black and white TV the last time the Lobos started 14-0. That was 55 years old. Also, it’s only January 2—not quite the halfway mark of the schedule—and New Mexico has already surpassed its win total last season, when its last record was 13-19.
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The Lobos are at No. 21 in an Associated Press poll this week, their highest position in more than eight years. They have been on a steady rise, receiving not a single vote in the preseason AP poll and being voted fifth in the preseason Mountain West rankings. “I thought we were going to get better, but maybe we won’t be sitting here like this,” said coach Richard Pitino. Best start in half a century? “Amazing,” said Pitino. One of the last two undefeated teams in the country? “Amazing,” said Pitino. There seems to be a topic here.
The Lobos are part of the unlikely landscape that is college basketball as 2023 begins. Purdue has moved from No. 1 to No. 1. North Carolina started the season No. 1 and Kentucky No. 4, neither of which are ranked this week. Nor are Big East favorites Creighton and Villanova, who are 15-13. But the college of charleston.
4. Free throws
The 2023 portion of the season begins with the Lobos second attempt in the nation on free throws. and made.
Their 84–63 win at SMU was the Mustangs’ worst non-conference defeat at home in 28 years.
Lobos dominant night@jaelenhouse10 18 piasters, 3 stils, 5 piasters@employee 18 piasters 9 ribs@Morrisudeze24 15 points 8 rep@employee 16p
Again in The Pit Saturday vs NM State
Highlights @KOB4 @employee pic.twitter.com/ZhoVQVEbbr
– Brandon Ortega (Brandega) November 16, 2022
6. Cut the strips
They trailed St. Mary’s 13-2 after eight minutes, but edged past Giles to snap their 23-game home winning streak, 69-65.
They were 12 points behind San Francisco but recovered to win 67-64.
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They ran away at Wyoming 76-75 last weekend, with two Mashburn free throws with 17.7 seconds left in the game. “They can’t all be pretty,” said Pitino. “Sometimes you need to get on the road and do more of a job than them.”
9. Family fights
New Mexico won the Pitino Bowl, as the Lobos defeated Iona 82-74. It was Richard Pitino coaching against Rick, the 21st father-son game in Division I history.
🎥 It was a file @employee Toy. Highlights beat Iona to improve the score 11-0, with a call from @employee. # golobus pic.twitter.com/aB7a5nBxsf
– Lobo Basketball (UNMLoboMBB) December 19, 2022
10. Dots in the paint
Lobos like to work near the basket. Only 28.4 percent of his field goal attempts are from behind the three-point arc and his 237 three-point shots are 330th in the nation. They average 36.9 points drawing the game.
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Between nine returns and two transfers, the New Mexico combined roster averaged 93.5 points last season.
12. Conversion success
The Lobos are one of only three teams in the country to average three players over 15.5 points a game – Mashburn and Gillen House at 17.1, and Maurice Odesi at 15.7 points. All three have moved to Albuquerque for the past two seasons.
13. Like a father like a son
Mashburn followed Pitino from Minnesota to New Mexico last season to continue playing with him. It runs in families. Mashburn’s father Jamal played with Rick Pitino at Kentucky. Jr. scored double figures in his 35-game winning streak, tying for the third-longest streak in the country.
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14. Family ties
House is the latest star in a rich basketball heritage. His father, Eddie, is the leading scorer at Arizona State, where two generations started. His uncle Mike played for the 1997 Arizona National Champion, who beat Kentucky’s Rick Pitino in the title game. His grandfather, Henry, was a guard for the UCLA championship team in the early 1970s. Seven more points and Gillen will join his three relatives with 1,000 career points.
Jaylen House does Jaylen House stuff. # golobus
See @FS1 pic.twitter.com/ScbmjGbged
– Lobo Basketball (UNMLoboMBB) December 31, 2022
Pitino, whose eight seasons at Minnesota included the NIT Championship and the 2017 Big Ten Coach of the Year, fielded the same fifth season in all 14 games.
Lobos hopes that good karma will carry over into March. New Mexico has not won an NCAA tournament game in 10 years. The Lobos’ last Sweet 16 appearance was in 1974.
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17. The Chasers
The next threat to New Mexico’s perfect record is Tuesday’s trip to Fresno State, where the Lobos haven’t won since 2016. New Mexico has become a high-value target.
“We kind of went from hunters to chasers,” said forward Josiah Alec. “We won’t have anything easy the rest of the way.”
Indeed, Pitino knows what is needed in the future.
“I mean, who are we to be so arrogant?” He said. “Our men were humble, they were hungry.”
And yet, it is impossible to beat. The only one left.