Lobos need confidence after 78-73 loss to UNLV

Saturday’s postgame press conference was short but not sweet. Zane Martin and JaQuan Lyle got on the podium to answer questions about the 78-73 loss to UNLV after head coach Paul Weir addressed the media.

New Mexico dropped to 17-10 overall, 6-8 Mountain West. UNLV improved to 13-14, 8-6.

The game was a close one with neither team fully dominating. By halftime New Mexico was only holding a one-point lead of 41-40. Weir said he didn’t think his team had a lot of energy overall, but that the beginning of the second half was probably when the Lobos started slipping more.

The Rebels found the lead less than three minutes into the second period and kept if for a few minutes. UNM caught up and even went on top a couple times, but a three-pointer by Elijah Mitrou-Long when the clock read 8:10 gave UNLV a lead they wouldn’t lose for the rest of the evening.

Martin took the last field goal attempt of the game. His missed three-pointer led to a UNLV rebound, which left Keith McGee no other option but to foul the team that was already ahead 76-73. There were still a couple seconds on the clock, but Martin said he thought that was the best shot at the moment. Fans were leaving The Pit as Bryce Hamilton went to the free throw line to add two more points for the away team.

“The defender was on his heels. Last time I drove, I lost the ball,” Martin said. “I had a defender on his heels, we was down by 3. I thought that was the best shot possible instead of forcing something.”

Martin, shooting at 42.9% from the field this season, registered eight points going 2-for-11 on Saturday. While he wasn’t great in that area, he did lead the team in assists with eight of them.

Meanwhile, Lyle attempted four shots but made none of them. His three points came from the charity line at the beginning of the game. The redshirt senior started the season as the team’s most consistent scorer, but after sitting out and then returning to the team (injury and suspension), he hasn’t found his rhythm again.

Lyle knows this, but fans constantly remind him on social media and they did it again on Saturday. They were not subtle when they cheered as Lyle was checking out and McGee was checking in.

He was asked about it after the game. His answer was that he hoped it just meant the fans were happy to see McGee instead of happy to see him leave the court. Lyle was also asked about body language and confidence. He didn’t deny he wasn’t feeling his best at the moment.

“I just suck right now. I’m not making any shots. I’m not helping my teammates in any way,” Lyle said. “I’m doing all the same things, staying in the gym, getting as much work in as I can. The shots just aren’t falling right now. I just have to be better.”

Martin was also asked about confidence, but the question directed at him was about his team’s chances of finishing the season on a high note. New Mexico has lost seven out of the last nine games, but Martin said his team just needs to take this rough patch as a learning experience.

“I would rather go through the tough times now than in March,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can get it going in March.”

Box score.

Up next, the Lobos host former coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal with the rest of the Nevada Wolf Pack on Tuesday night.

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