Joe Furstinger isn’t walking through that door.
The UNM men’s basketball coaching staff wishes he was.
With Furstinger, the former Lobo forward now carving out a professional career in Macedonia, energy and urgency was never a problem. If anything, the feisty 6-foot-9 Furstinger, who fans liked tagging on social media posts with the #Joementum hashtag for his ability to give his entire team a spark, would sometimes play with too much energy.
Through just four games this season for his 3-1 Lobos, head coach Paul Weir has yet to see his team display the same sort of appreciation for the value of every possession. And, at least against UTEP last Saturday, some frustration was starting to show on the sidelines.
“Just trying to create a sense of urgency in these guys,” Weir said. “I think a lot of things, but my guess would be they read so much press prior to this season they think that they’re just going to go out and win a game without having to go out and actually earn it. … That’s never going to be me and that’s never going to be us. I thought we were a little bit better (vs. UTEP), but not all the way to a team that I can really say that’s my team. That’s my guys. We’re not there yet. I thought we showed flashes, though.”
Senior guard Anthony Mathis, a close friend of Furstinger, said he sees the same thing as his coach. But Mathis, who says he’s trying to take on the role of leader this season, used a different word to describe what has been missing from the Lobos so far.
“It helps when you play desperate,” Mathis said, “and you need every single possession and every possession matters and every rebound matters.”
Weir has said throughout his year-and-a-half stint running the Lobos program that his high-tempo, high-pressure, and high-substitution style of play should give his team the best chance to wear teams down in the closing minutes of games.
While college basketball uses halves, if you break down the Lobos’ first four games by quarters, using the 10-minute mark of each half as a benchmark, the Lobos’ strategy seems to be working.
In fact, the final 10 minutes, or “fourth quarter” of UNM’s games, would represent the only one of four quarters the Lobos are outscoring opponents. UNM is averaging a blistering 29.5 points in the final 10 minutes of games – 6.2 points better (23.3) than its often worn down opponent.
For comparison, the Lobos are being outscored in each of the first three quarters: an average of 14.0-13.5 in the first 10 minutes of games, 25.8-23.5 in the second 10 minutes and 22.8-22.3 in the third.
While Weir’s plan has been working, he thinks his players have started to take it for granted that the style of play will save them in the end of games.
“It happened (vs. UTEP),” Weir said. “It happened with Iona. It happened vs. New Mexico State. We just think that eventually it’s going to come our way and we’re just automatically going to come back and win. I think in the process of that, we lose the urgency sometimes on some of those possessions along the way, and we’ve got to get a little bit better there. Last year’s team I thought was hungrier than this year’s team is right now. That doesn’t (mean) this team can’t get there, but it needs to get there quickly.”
FURSTINGER: The former Lobo is off to a solid start with his professional team, averaging 22.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game for KK Gostivar, which at 5-2 is in fourth place in the Prva Liga (Maedonian First League).
He’d even make Mathis proud as he’s hit four 3-pointers in the first seven games of the season.
Saturday: New Mexico at Bradley, 6 p.m., ESPN3.com, 770 AM/94.5 FM