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Game at Bradley begins tough road for Lobo men

Paul Weir looked like he was trying to break his Lobos on Thursday in Dreamstyle Arena.

After a lengthy, physical practice, he told his team they’d have to do a “Pit run” before finishing up the final 20 minutes or so of drills.

A “Pit run” is, by itself, a daunting task. Players start at the top concourse level and run down one row of concrete steps (87 steps) in the half-century old arena then back up the next row of concrete steps (87 more). And repeat that, running up or down each of the 14 full-length rows of steps in the Pit. About 1,200 steps in all.

To add to the fun, the Lobos had to complete the run in under 6 minutes.

He then told them to put on the weighted vests they sometimes wear in practice.

The team made it through.

Beginning Saturday, the gantlet the team will have to run might be even more of a challenge. The upcoming schedule isn’t for the faint of heart, which seems to please Weir.

“I hope that serves us well as the season progresses,” the second-year coach said.

UNM (3-1) plays the Bradley Braves (6-2) Saturday night at 6 in Peoria, Ill., as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge. It is the first of four games in four cities and three states in an 11-day period, all of which are against teams ranked 115 or better by KenPom.com. The Lobos won’t be favored in any of the games.

Or, for a more condensed snapshot, it’s the first of three games in three states in seven days.

The Lobos, who flew to Chicago on Friday before bussing to Peoria, will drive back to Chicago on Sunday and then fly to El Paso. From there, they bus to Las Cruces for Tuesday’s rivalry rematch with the New Mexico State Aggies in the Pan American Center.

A three-hour bus ride home after that game will have the team back in Albuquerque by Wednesday morning, but not for long. UNM will fly Thursday to Los Angeles, where they play Saint Mary’s on Dec. 7 in the Staples Center.

After that three-game, three-state, three-time-zone-in-seven-day jaunt, the Lobos get to relax at home, sort of. They host the Pac 12’s Colorado Buffaloes, the highest-rated team on the non-conference schedule, on Dec. 11.

Opening the season with a road game at Cal State Northridge, Weir says, helped get down the process part of playing on the road. But this stretch brings with it a lot of challenges on and off the court.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on academics the past two weeks, which is really critical for us because this stretch that we’re going into is the crunch time of a semester,” Weir said.

“So we’ve spent a lot of time trying to get ahead, set up early exams or do any of the things we can do with professors, etc., to make sure that when we get into that stretch, we’re also not bogged down with the academic stress of a semester, because that’s real.”

GET OUT OF THE WAY: Weir said he felt he was bogging down his players too much with coaching at the beginning of last week’s UTEP game, confusing them with adjustments rather than just letting them play and run the things they have been practicing.

“There’s a million ways to coach the game of basketball,” Weir said. “There’s a lot of guys who do it that way (a lot of in-game coaching and adjustments) and are terrific at it. But for me, I subscribe to the Pete Newell philosophy that basketball is the most over-coached and under-taught game in the world. I believe in just teaching and letting guys go play as opposed to the over-coaching side of things.

“I thought the beginning of the UTEP game was me over-coaching as opposed to just teaching and letting them become basketball players and just play within a framework and the style that we give them to do.”

 

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