ALBUQUERQUE — No one rushed the court when Chris McNeal hit a fastbreak layup with about four minutes to go in Saturday’s season opener for The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team in The Pit.
There was no announcement over the public address system about the historical marker just passed, no stoppage of play to share it with the crowd.
In that moment, the single-game record for points scored went by the wayside when McNeal’s bucket was officially logged into the books.
“I didn’t even know about it,” said Lobos head coach Paul Weir when told his team’s video game-like total set a new standard.
Seven Lobos finished in double figures in Saturday’s 147-76 rout of Northern New Mexico College in Weir’s debut as UNM’s front man. It topped the previous record of 136 set in 1990 and came with a 24-point, 10-assist double-double from McNeal.
Troy Simons added 19 points and Makuach Maluach 18 as the new-look Lobos broke in their new style before 10,695 fans on a busy day for hoops in The Pit. It was the third game of the day, the first wave in an impromptu 48-hour event that brings together five of the state’s six four-year schools for a chance to play in the most famous arena in New Mexico.
Weir said he hopes to keep evolving the event, hopefully coaxing that other four-year school (New Mexico State) to join the fray this time next year.
“It probably wasn’t perfect, but I think it was a starting point,” he said. “I would never not want Northern New Mexico or anyone else in the state to not feel a part of it. I’m hopeful that next year we’ll be able to get even more teams from this state and we’ll be able to grow this event.”
What was pretty close to perfect was UNM’s performance. The Lobos scored 74 points in the first half and 73 in the second. They forced 33 turnovers, held NNMC (2-8) to just 29 percent shooting from the outside, and came within two 3-pointers of tying the program record for most 3s in a game.
The game was high-octane from the get-go. The Lobos led 19-5 in the first few minutes and never let up, pressing on defense all the way up to the 8-minute mark of the second half when the margin had mushroomed to more than 60 points.
“It’s really hard on a made shot to get out of the habit of what we’re trying to do,” Weir said. “On dead balls and other situations like that we were going to take it off but right now on a made shot I didn’t want to practice something that we’re never going to do.”
The fact that everyone on the floor has the green light to shoot makes quick buckets the norm. Senior Sam Logwood was the first Lobo to reach double figures and he finished his night with 14 points and six rebounds in just 17 minutes.
Having spent the previous three years in former coach Craig Neal’s don’t-shoot-unless-absolutely-necessary style, the change is a welcome sight for everyone on the team.
“It’s really fun,” he said. “Everyone gets involved. You don’t have too many guys not feeling involved or out of rhythm. Everyone’s touching the ball so, I mean, it’s great for everybody.”
As NNMC’s turnovers mounted, so did the UNM points. A Dane Kuiper 3-pointer at the 12:37 mark had New Mexico hit triple digits, then a flurry of 3s and transition buckets pushed the total past 120 less than three minutes later.
Lobo freshmen Vladamir Pinchuk and the aforementioned Maluach were both perfect from the field, going a combined 13-for-13 shooting the ball for 30 points and 11 rebounds between them.
NNMC had three players in double figures, led by 20 from freshman Bryce Simmons out of Rio Rancho. Former Capital star Eric Coca started at shooting guard but struggled to a 1-for-6 shooting night and just three points, eight below his average. He had four turnovers to go with two rebounds and a pair of assists.
Cowboys win: New Mexico Highlands took its turn in The Pit on Saturday afternoon, beating Western New Mexico, 85-81, in a game the Cowboys led virtually start to finish.
Jordan Jones led three NMHU players in double figures with 25 points, including a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Mike Nwabuzor added 22 points, getting nine of those from the free throw line.
Highlands led 49-39 at halftime but never trailed after a Nwabuzor 3-pointer put the Cowboys ahead 14-13 with just over 13 minutes remaining in the first half. It was his only 3-ball of the game.
Jacob Holland added 15 points for NMHU (1-0), which only had three players come of the bench to contribute. One of the starters was freshman D.J. Bustos, a product of West Las Vegas who set the state’s career scoring record during his five-year run with the Dons’ varsity. His only points on a 1-for-7 shooting performance came on a 3-pointer with two minutes left in the first half.