Heading into Tuesday night’s game between the Arizona Wildcats and the New Mexico Lobos, there was a lot of talk about how these two teams would be extra juiced for the two schools’ first meeting since 1999.
Well, one school was.
Right from the start, Arizona took it to the Lobos, jumping out to an early 12-0 lead and never looking back en route to a 77-46 blowout win.
It took New Mexico nearly six minutes to record its first points of the game. It also only had one defensive rebound on Arizona’s first six missed shots.
At half, the Wildcats were up 37-16, with every single player chipping in at least three points. On the UNM side, only three players had scored, led by Tim Williams and his eight points.
The second half was more of the same, so here are some takeaways from Arizona’s final non-conference game of the season:
The main reason Arizona was able to dominate this game was the sheer size advantage the Wildcats had, and their ability to exploit it. Obij Aget was not equipped to deal with the athleticism he faced in Dusan Ristic, Lauri Markkanen, Keanu Pinder, and even Chance Comanche.
Comanche had arguably the best night of his Arizona career, putting in a career-high 14 points (perfect 6-of-6 from the floor), grabbing eight boards, and only fouling twice in 23 minutes.
Of course, Markkanen had a productive night, but was off from three-point range (2-8), hindering his scoring just a little bit. His first make from long range came with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
On the rebounding side, it wasn’t even close. At half, Arizona had ten offensive rebounds compared to UNM’s 16 total. In the end, the Wildcats finished with a +19 advantage on the glass. Four Wildcats had 8+ rebounds on the night. Rawle Alkins ended up with a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds).
Heading into this game, I figured UNM’s best chance to win was to draw plenty of fouls, get to the line, and have Arizona’s guards in foul trouble. After all, the Lobos were fifth in the nation in drawing fouls.
But the Wildcats only committed four fouls in the first half, resulting in four UNM free throws. If you’re going to beat Arizona, you have to do better than that. UA only committed 11 fouls total on the night, and had 29 free throw attempts compared to the Lobos’ 16.
There was a small group of UNM fans that had their voices heard during the game, shouting “UNM needs a new coach”. They come up to where we were sitting at halftime and didn’t seem pleased that they had traveled to Tucson to watch Craig Neal lead this team to such an obliteration.
Yes, it’s nice that Arizona decided to play New Mexico again. But the Lobos also are at their lowest point in quite sometime as a program, and it seems likely that they’ll be looking for a new coach in the offseason. There are other West Coast rivalries out there to be had (San Diego State, GCU, Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga). UNM is not the end-all, be-all people still living in the 1990s make it out to be.
Arizona is now off for Christmas and done with the non-conference schedule. The Wildcats return to the court Friday, Dec. 30th when they play the California Golden Bears in Berkeley.