University of New Mexico head coach Paul Weir opened Saturday’s post game press conference with an apology. The Lobos were handed their first loss of the season with a 98-94 loss to their in-state rivals, the New Mexico State Aggies.
“I wish I could just say it was one thing,” Weir said. “I think at the end of the day, we’re not as far along as where we need to be 18 months into being here and that’s on me. If there is one reason, it’s Paul Weir.”
Redshirt junior AJ Harris played a huge role for the Aggies, as he led the scoring with 31 points. He went 6-of-6 from beyond the arc. This is half the total three-pointers NMSU recorded throughout the game. The other Aggie who scored in double figures was redshirt senior JoJo Zamora with 20 points.
Four Lobos saw double digits, led by redshirt sophomore Vance Jackson’s 27 points. Senior Anthony Mathis and junior Corey Manigault also scored in the 20’s with 22 and 20 points respectively.
New Mexico was ahead early on, but ten minutes into the game, the Aggies found a lead they would not let go for the rest of the day. This happened in the middle of a 12-point run for NMSU. The score was 5-13 in favor of UNM when the clock read 13:11, but the Lobos failed to score for four minutes until Jackson woke up the offense with a three-pointer. By then, the score was 17-16 in favor of the Aggies.
The first half ended with a 44-38 NMSU lead. Not necessarily a deficit the Lobos needed to freak out about, but the second half showed they couldn’t afford to relax anymore. With nine minutes remaining in the game, they found themselves down by 19 points.
“I don’t think we ever came into a timeout thinking this was over,” Weir said. “We felt the way we play, our style, our conditioning, is suited for late games… it was just too much of a deficit to come back from.”
The official attendance was announced at 14,393, but not all the fans stayed for the last few minutes of the game. Things weren’t looking good for UNM, but Mathis saw the fans leaving and used that as motivation to play harder. He said he wanted to “make these people pay for leaving” by having them miss out on something great.
Mathis almost achieved what he wanted. The Lobos slowly inched their way closer, and with seven seconds remaining, Mathis made the a layup that put his team within two points of the Aggies. In the next two seconds, Vance Jackson recorded a steal, but this didn’t end in the comeback the Lobos were hoping for.
TWO POINT GAME pic.twitter.com/zNxDJNmE2O
— The Lair New Mexico (@thelairnm) November 18, 2018
The Aggies have now picked up four straight wins against the Lobos. The cherry and silver team has yet to beat them with Weir as the head coach (he’s 0-3 against his former team).
“I think going into this year, this was on us to prove that we’re the better team and we didn’t do that. And that’s on Paul Weir,” the coach said. “That’s not on our seniors. That’s not on our newcomers. That’s not on anybody but Paul Weir.”
Last season, UNM’s first loss came in a similar way. The Lobos were 2-0 until they traveled to Las Cruces and walked away with a 75-56 loss. This was the first of a four-game losing streak that kind of set the tone for the next few months. The Lobos were 6-15 throughout November and December, something Weir said he didn’t want a repeat of this season.