New Mexico Stuns Nevada to Begin Conference Play

Welcome back to Assist Maps Monday! College basketball’s nonconference slate is over, and conference play has officially begun. This week, we take a look at a stunning upset in the Mountain West Conference. On Saturday, January 5, the New Mexico Lobos defeated the sixth-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack 85-58.

Entering this game, Nevada had an undefeated record at 14-0 and was considered a real threat to enter the postseason with an unblemished record. Thus, a road showdown against the 7-6 Lobos seemed to be fairly innocuous, as KenPom gave the visiting Wolf Pack a 95% chance of winning prior to tipoff. This game, however, played out as no one expected with a sound defeat of the #6 team in the nation.

The major shocker in this game was the poor performance of Nevada’s offense, which ranks 13th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings. Their 58 points were by far the fewest in a game for Nevada this season, as the team had scored at least 68 in every previous game. New Mexico isn’t considered a particularly strong defensive team either, ranking 168th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Yet, the Lobos held the Wolf Pack to 33.3% shooting from the field, including 18.2% from three. They were able to hold Nevada’s leading scoring Caleb Martin to 2/14 shooting and 1/7 from beyond the arc. Nevada’s 59.3% from the free throw line was also far worse than their season average of 73.4%.

On the other side, New Mexico was able to put together a solid offensive game, including 18 assists. Sophomore forward Vance Jackson came off the bench to lead the way with seven assists (on top of his 18 points and 10 rebounds), distributing three to sophomore wing Makuach Maluach, two to senior point guard Anthony Mathis, and one each to junior big men Carlton Bragg and Corey Manigault. Anthony Mathis dished three of his five assists to Vance Jackson, with the other two going to Manigault and senior wing Dane Kuiper.

This poor overall performance by Nevada will likely stand as an outlier for a strong team that reached the Sweet 16 last year. Head coach Eric Musselman will try to right the ship, and his team is currently favored to win each game over the rest of the season by KenPom. While this loss could hurt the Wolf Pack’s chances of earning a one seed in the NCAA Tournament—ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Nevada as the fourth overall seed in the tournament prior to the loss—they still have a fantastic shot at a high seed and could make another run in the tournament this year.

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