Makuach Maluach led all scorers with 22 points during New Mexico’s 82-70 victory over Central Arkansas on Sunday. But throughout the week, the spotlight was on a different player.
Carlton Bragg hadn’t played a game since March 23, 2017. All eyes were on him as he stepped on the court for his first official game as a Lobo. He finished the night with 16 points and seven rebounds.
With high expectations for his comeback game, Bragg admitted he was nervous. He knew it was going to be an emotional day, so he kissed his son before the game for good luck.
It was a big day, so Carlton Bragg was nervous. He kissed his son before the game for good luck.— The Lair New Mexico (@thelairnm) December 16, 2018
Bragg finished the day with 16 points and sevens rebounds. pic.twitter.com/xRHOc6vNUK
He said being back on the court was a blessing. Bragg was well-received by fans as they cheered loudly when he first checked into the game, and again a couple times when he scored.
“The standing ovation, I felt it. It gave me butterflies,” the 23-year old said.
New Mexico head coach Paul Weir was happy for Bragg and said he impacted both the offense and the defense. However, adding him into the lineup didn’t come without any new challenges, as he pointed out that the Lobos were trying too hard to feed him the ball.
“We’ve been doing it a lot in practice over the past week or so,” the coach said. “We’ve been kind of like force feeding him and we did it a little bit again tonight.”
Sunday’s result broke a three-game losing streak for the Lobos and improved their record to 5-4. While their 78-75 loss to Colorado last Tuesday was a closer result than the previous two losses, the team had blown a 17-point lead. Sunday was important to help the Lobos get their confidence back and set them on the right track.
“We needed it. We needed to get back on the winning side,” said Maluach.
The sophomore’s 22 points were a season high. The cherry and silver team recorded a total of 11 three-pointers that day, and Maluach was responsible for four of them. Another big contributor was senior Anthony Mathis who also hit four shots from beyond the arc. He finished the night with 13 points. The fourth Lobo to hit double digits was Karim Ezzeddine with 10 points. He was one rebound away from a double-double.
Maluach is 🔥 today! He leads all scorers with 16pts pic.twitter.com/tGdoFd7ZHa— The Lair New Mexico (@thelairnm) December 16, 2018
Dane Kuiper turned 22 on Sunday. But his birthday did not go too well for him.
While he played a total of 14 minutes, Kuiper played less than two minutes in the second half. Weir said that early in this period, Kuiper and Vance Jackson complained about some injuries. Jackson played a total of 16 minutes. The coach said this was not something that had come up during practice this week. While he thought it was best to limit their time during the second half of Sunday’s game, he doesn’t think this is anything long term. Kuiper’s mom said on Twitter that he was having knee problems.