Lobo fans may not have noticed.
And who can blame them, what with all the building Joementum hype of Joe Furstinger? His hard-to-explain double-double streak is at four consecutive games — after the senior forward went his first 95 games in a Lobos jersey without recording one. He had 10 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s loss to defending league champion Nevada.
But quietly, the Lobos (6-9, 1-1 Mountain West) have had an on-court leader start to solidify himself, at least in terms of offense.
Antino Jackson, the 6-foot graduate transfer guard who scored more than 1,000 points in his three seasons at Akron and had never played point guard until this season, easily leads the Mountain West in assists after one week of league play at 8.5 per game. He had nine in the home win over Air Force on Wednesday, eight in Saturday’s near road upset of Nevada.
He’s also fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio in league games (5.7 assists for every one turnover) and sixth in 3-point shooting (55.6 percent) among players averaging at least 2.5 made 3-pointers per league game.
And it’s been helping set the tone, says UNM coach Paul Weir.
“I think our style of play really wore them down, mostly on the defensive end,” Weir said after Saturday’s 77-74 loss in Reno. “I thought our quality of shot in the second half was terrific. We had layups. We had 3s. We had wide open shots. (Nevada had good stretches of defense), but I thought for the most part, we were able to wear them down, which I think showed up most on the offensive end for us and I thought Antino was really good at being able to expose that.”
In two league games, Jackson’s stat line is: 26.5 minutes per game, 11.0 points, 8.5 assists and 2.5 3-pointers made.
Jackson has had five or more assists in five games. UNM is 4-1 in them and averaged 97.8 points. (The team is still averaging 85.5 points per game if only considering the four Division I games in that group and not the season-opening win over NAIA Northern New Mexico). He averaged 7.6 assists in those games.
In the other 10 games, the Lobos are 2-8 and averaging 71.7 points per game while he averages 1.5 assists.
After last week’s loss to the Lobos in Dreamstyle Arena, Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich praised Jackson’s growth as a point guard.
“He’s a handful,” Pilipovich said. “We saw him last year (when Air Force lost to Akron) and he gave us problems scoring it.”
Jackson scored 15 points and had one assist in last season’s Akron win over Air Force and his dribble penetration regularly drew fouls against the Falcons defense throughout as he attempted a career-high 12 free throws in that game.
With UNM this season, he’s again shown the scoring ability, but it’s his evolution as a set-up man for teammates that has the Lobos possibly starting to hit stride.
CALLING CAPTAIN KIRK: OK, back to Furstinger.
His 10 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday was his fourth-consecutive double-double, making him the first Lobo to have at least four in a row since Alex Kirk had seven straight over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Kirk had one in the season finale loss to Harvard in the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and started the following season with six straight.
But Furstinger is doing more than just scoring and rebounding. He’s averaging 3.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in those four games. The MWC stat leaderboard shows Furstinger at No. 2 in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (7.0) as he has seven assists and just one turnover in two league games.
“He’s doing a good job of making himself available in the post,” Weir said. “All our other post players are having such a hard time just getting open and just getting the ball.”
NUMBERS GAME: It would be silly to read too much into only one week’s worth of Mountain West games. So, let’s look at those numbers, shall we?
The KenPom.com ratings (a formula based on offensive and defensive efficiency plus strength of opponent as opposed to just wins and losses) saw four MWC teams move up. At the top, Wyoming jumped 25 spots (from 135 to 110) after its lopsided win over San Diego State. UNM was second, jumping 19 spots (184 to 165), based on a blowout of lowly regarded Air Force in their opener and a much better than anticipated loss to the league’s top rated team, Nevada.
UNM at Boise State
7 p.m., ESPN3.com,
770 AM/94.5 FM