Troy Simons didn’t get crowned as the junior college national scoring champion last year by accident.
He shot his way there.
Over two seasons at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla., the 6-foot-3, guard hit 174 3-pointers, connecting at a 40.7 percent clip. In 56 junior college games, he had five in which he didn’t hit a 3-pointer and only eight in which he hit one or fewer, and none of those were ever in consecutive games.
But through six games at UNM, Simons has been held under 10 points the past four games, all losses, and is 3-of-15 (20.0 percent) from 3-point range after starting the season 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) in the team’s first two wins.
“The reality is for Troy, he’s never had to compete with players of that caliber before in his life, so there’s an adjustment process to that,” Weir said. He pointed in particular to the last two losses vs. TCU and Maryland, which had a lot of size on the wings where Simons will make his living as a Lobo. “There’s a learning curve with that. Hopefully we’ll just continue to grow with it.”
Weir emphasized this isn’t a Simons issue exclusively.
“I think it’s a struggle for any perimeter player to go from playing the junior college game to Omaha and Tennessee Tech to playing Maryland and TCU,” said Weir. “To play two top 25 teams back to back with that kind of size and that kind of length, I think we had a lot of players get their shots blocked, a lot of players do things they don’t ordinarily do.”
Other Lobos struggling to shoot the ball early have been Dane Kuiper (20.8 percent from 3 this season) and Antino Jackson (34.3 percent from 3).
Weir noted the sample size is too small yet to think this is the norm for either player, especially because both have Division I experience that shows it isn’t.
Kuiper shot 37.7 percent from 3-point range over 26 games with UNM last season.
Jackson, a 1,000 point scorer in three years at Akron, hadn’t been held without a basket for his previous 85 games before Saturday’s 0-for-10 showing vs. Maryland, which included 0-for-7 from 3. He shot 38.2 percent from 3 last season at Akron.
ON CONNOR: After Saturday’s loss to Maryland in the consolation game of the Emerald Coast Classic, the second consecutive game in Florida in which the Lobos faced a team with a distinct size advantage, Weir said of 6-9 senior Connor MacDougall’s return to the lineup: “It’s all up to Connor at this point.”
MacDougall (sprained ankle, bone bruise) has been out since the Oct. 27 exhibition game against BYU.
Monday, Weir elaborated, saying MacDougall has been cleared to return to practice by doctors, but has to be confident the pain in the foot won’t affect his performance.
“Connor is still working through his injury,” Weir said. “At this point it’s a pain tolerance thing. … It’s going to be in Connor’s hands the rest of the way.”
AT THE POLLS: The Mountain West did not have a team ranked in Monday’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, extending to 994 days since the league had a ranked team. That will exceed 1,000 days by the time next Monday’s poll is released.
Nevada checked in with 61 points, two spots from being ranked (No. 25 Creighton had 124 points while the team between Nevada and that spot, Seton Hall, had 80 points). The Wolf Pack appeared on 16 of 65 voter ballots on Monday, with a high ranking of No. 14 by Graham Couch of the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal.
UNLV (6-0), which hasn’t played outside of Las Vegas yet this season, also received two points in Monday’s poll, appearing on one ballot at No. 24 (Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News).
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: UNLV freshman center Brandon McCoy was selected Monday as the Mountain West Player of the Week. In a 3-0 week for the Rebels, McCoy averaged 21.3 points per game, 13.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in wins over Rice, Utah and Southern Utah.
Evansville at UNM, 7 p.m.
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