St. Mary’s Gaels vs. New Mexico Lobos Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 9th 2023


Can New Mexico author a repeat? That’s the Lobos’ task Thursday night when they make the trip to Moraga, Calif., for a nonconference contest against No. 23 Saint Mary’s.

It will be the second straight season New Mexico (1-0) has made the trek to Northern California. The Lobos enjoyed a successful journey last year as they stopped the Gaels’ 23-game home winning streak with a 69-65 decision, part of a 14-0 start that briefly got New Mexico ranked in the Top 25.

New Mexico tuned up for the rematch by walloping Texas Southern 92-55 on Monday night in its season opener in Albuquerque. Jamal Mashburn Jr. led a balanced scoring attack with 15 points, while Donovan Dent added 12. Braden Appelhans and JT Toppin each tallied 11 points, with Toppin adding a game-high nine rebounds.

It was the largest margin of victory for the Lobos vs. a Division I foe under third-year coach Richard Pitino.

Eleven players scored at least four points for New Mexico, which shot 44.8 percent from the field and converted 10 3-pointers while committing only nine turnovers. The Lobos’ defense limited Texas Southern to 29.4 percent field-goal shooting and earned a 53-37 advantage on the glass.

“To play that many guys and not let up was great,” Pitino said. “We passed the ball great; 20 assists was terrific. We defended and we rebounded, and that was what we talked about needing to do. It was a great win, and we played really, really hard.”

Doing the same thing against Saint Mary’s (1-0) will be a much more difficult ask. The Gaels turned their Monday night season opener against Division II Stanislaus State into a glorified scrimmage, establishing a 50-11 halftime lead and pouring it on until the end in a 107-28 blowout.

Saint Mary’s had all the advantages and used them continually. It scored a whopping 62 points in the paint and carved out an astounding 59-22 rebounding advantage. The Gaels forced 17 turnovers and committed only eight.

Six players reached double figures for Saint Mary’s, led by reserve Mason Forbes with 19 points in only 18 minutes.

“We really clamped down and got a feel for what they were trying to do,” said forward Mitchell Saxen, who contributed 12 points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes. “We did a great job of keeping off the (3-pointers). It was good to be back in front of a crowd again.”

While it’s hard to read too much into a 79-point win over a totally outmatched team, it was easy to see why some feel that the Gaels could be a sleeper to break through and finally make a run to a Final Four. Their deep, veteran cast has a “been there, done that” vibe in about every category except a deep NCAA Tournament run.

“Our goal coming into any game, regardless of who we play, is to come out and play to play,” said guard Aidan Mahaney, who scored 15 points. “All our guys came in and had an impact on the game.”

–Field Level Media

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