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LOS ANGELES – This one wasn’t about emotion. And it wasn’t about a hostile road environment getting the better of them.
No, this one was pretty simple. It was a beatdown.
Just not one Paul Weir says warrants wholesale changes just yet.
The University of New Mexico Lobos, as they’ve often done this season, fell behind early and never really even gave a hint of making a game of it Friday, getting humiliated by the Saint Mary’s Gaels, 85-60, in the Hall of Fame Classic in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
It was the second blowout defeat for the Lobos (4-3) in as many games, as the team went 0-2 this week and lost by a combined 60 points while head coach Paul Weir continues to stick with a style of play that clearly failed him and the team in the past two games.
“I think there’s an obligation to continue to build a program,” Weir said, responding to a reporter’s pointed question about whether he should back off his team’s non-traditional high-risk, high-reward schemes on offense, defense and even with how he picks starting lineups based on hustle plays as opposed to player continuity or what unit gives the team the best chance to start games with a bang.
“I think there’s an ability to maybe make some changes in the things that you talk about, but at the same time, I also have to think about the greater needs of the program and the greater ability to build a foundation of the things that we want.”
UNM’s starting unit has not scored first this season in seven games and has fallen behind significantly before the first rounds of substitutions are made. In the previous two games, the Lobos dug 11-0 holes at Bradley and NMSU. Friday, it wasn’t 11-0, but it was 19-4 just 5 1/2 minutes into the game.
To start the second half, the Gaels extended what was a 43-29 lead to 58-29 with a 15-0 run that both Weir and Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said was the key to the game.
Defensively, the Lobos’ press didn’t speed up the disciplined Gaels (6-4) and especially not veteran guard Jordan Ford, who is just 6-foot-1, and the next in a long line of shorter guards who have had their way with UNM this season. Ford used a variety of crafty moves to score 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
“Our one-on-one defense has been a real challenge for us this year,” Weir said, though he added he’s not ready to bail on his preference of high-pressure man-to-man defense.
“At the seven-game mark, it’s just a little early for me to say, ‘You know what? Maybe we just can’t guard, let’s get back and go do this.'” Weir said. “I’m just not there yet, not with our youth. Not with the way last season was able to turn around. And not with the fact that we’ve had some pretty darn good wins this year.”
UNM shot 34.8 percent, had just eight assists and the team that relies on 3-point shooting as its bread and butter was just 4-of-26 (15.4 percent) from beyond the arc with sharpshooter Anthony Mathis going 2-for-9 overall and 0-for-8 from 3.
“It’s been two really humbling games offensively, and I think that really affected us on the defensive end as well,” Weir said. “We’ve got to find a way to get out of this funk offensively and make some shots hopefully and open up the game a little bit.”
UNM got team highs of 12 points and eight rebounds from Vance Jackson. Makuach Maluach added 10 points, but did so on just 4-of-11 shooting. The Lobos were outrebounded 38-27.
“These last two games have been really exposing to us in a lot of ways,” Weir said.
NOTES: Corey Manigault, who was seen on video throwing a punch before Tuesday’s rivalry game at NMSU, made the trip, but was held out serving an indefinite suspension. Weir said he hasn’t determined yet how long it will last. …
Former Lobo Michael Cooper sat behind the Lobos bench, as did UNM President Garnett Stokes.
UNM’s 25-point loss was followed by a 35-point blowout in game two of the Hall of Fame Classic as TCU beat USC 96-61.
BOX SCORE: SAINT MARY’S 85, NEW MEXICO 60