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Emptying the Notebook: UNM loses on the road at Colorado State

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Here are a few extra notes, quotes, tweets, stats, videos and whatever else I could find in the old notebook after Saturday’s 91-76 CSU win over the UNM Lobos at Moby Arena:

Where have you gone, Joe Furstinger?

Not only are the Lobos still missing the fire and passion of former Lobo big man Joe Furstinger, but there’s another more obvious part of this season’s struggles that likely would be cured if only that long-armed, 6-foot-9 forward from Santa Margarita, Calif., were still suiting up for UNM.

Whereas last year’s Lobos team lacked height in its regular rotation, this year’s roster has plenty. It’s long. It’s tall. And it’s big. And yet, it can’t protect the rim, something that was often overlooked as one of the most valuable assets of Furstinger.

Some fans may forget that Furstinger averaged better than 1.6 blocks per game last season (he had 52 of them in 32 games played). His block percentage of 5.9 was the second best rate in the Mountain West Conference last season.

This year’s Lobos blocks leader is Vladimir Pinchuk at 0.75 per game. Pinchuk’s block rate is 3.9 percent, but he plays just 17 minutes per game. Karim Ezzeddine has a 3.3 percent block rate and averages 0.63 blocks per game.

“I told our guys, I’ve never seen a 5 (a center) at the rim and a guard driving to the rim and a guard being able to consistently score over bigs the way people have for the last 20 minutes of Vegas and the first 20 minutes tonight,” said Lobos coach Paul Weir after Saturday’s game. “… The guards’ ability to go and just finish over our bigs at the rim is troubling.”

In the second half of UNM’s loss to UNLV last Tuesday, 24 of the Rebels’ 35 points scored from the field in the second half were points in the paint. In the first half vs. CSU on Saturday, 32 of the Rams’ 45 points scored from the field were points in the paint.

The quick math on that 40-minute period: Lobo opponents scored 80 points from the field (this doesn’t count free throws) and an eye-popping 56 of those points were points in the paint.

Earlier in the season, it was reported in the Journal time and again that the Lobos were struggling to guard smaller guards with head coach Paul Weir’s man-to-man, switching defensive scheme that often led to big men out on the perimeter trying to keep up with those quicker opponents who often got to the rim and scored.

But the problem wasn’t just what was happening on the perimeter, nor is it now as guards continue to get into the paint with ease. Now, while Lobo big men wait at the rim in the zone, opposing guards still are torching the Lobos, who don’t have a shot blocker like Furstinger.

The gamer

Here’s the game article I filed from Moby Arena after Saturday’s game before rushing back to Denver to catch a flight home.

What happened to the D?

In UNM’s first two Mountain West games — a road win at Air Force and the huge upset of previously undefeated Nevada on Jan. 5 — the Lobos defense was, dare I say, elite. Then, in losses to UNLV, it was, dare I say, awful.

Here’s the proof:

• 0.84: Air Force’s points per possession vs. UNM
• 0.81: Nevada’s points per possession vs. UNM
• 1.21: UNLV’s points per possession vs. UNM
• 1.23: Colorado State’s points per possession vs. UNM

Attendance

The announced attendance in Moby Arena on Saturday: 3,057

A number to know: 2-2

The Lobos start Mountain West play 2-2. The consensus in the always rationale world of social media is that the team is awful and Weir should be on the first bus back to Las Cruces.

But the reality is, this is pretty much what the Lobos do every year. In 20 season of Mountain West play, UNM has been 2-2 through four league games 11 times.

Of the five possible records through four games, here is UNM’s breakdown for each in 20 years of MWC play

4-0: 1
3-1: 4
2-2: 11
1-3: 4
0-4: zero

A CSU number to know: 26

The 26 assists (on 32 made field goals) for Colorado State on Saturday were a season high for the Rams and easily the most for a Lobos opponent on the season (NMSU had 21 assists in the Dec. 4 blowout over the Lobos on Dec. 4, but no other UNM opponent has had more than 18 in a game).

Postgame interview

Here is the postgame interview I had with Paul Weir outside the locker room on Saturday night in Fort Collins, as posted to the Journal’s Facebook page:

He said it

“We did a nice job of fighting them in the post and our double teams were pretty good. We knew that they had to score that way and that’s where they wanted to get the ball. And then I thought we just did a beautiful job attacking the zone early. We kept it simple, got it in the middle, made really good decisions when we got it in there. The evidence is there with 26 assists to nine turnovers.” — Colorado State head coach Niko Medved

Up next

Up next for the Lobos is a road game on Tuesday night at San Diego State in Viejas Arena at 9 p.m. MT (8 p.m. local time on the Mesa). The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Meanwhile, back in Albuquerque…

The Lobo women’s basketball team got back on the winning tack on Saturday, beating the CSU Rams in Dreamstyle Arena. Colleague Ken Sickenger was on the clock working the women’s game on Saturday. His game story:

Meanwhile, down south on I-25

That same Air Force team the Lobos beat in Clune Arena on Jan. 2, and that same Air Force team that lost to Colorado State by 20 last week in Fort Collins, yes, that same Air Force team smacked around the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday on the U.S. Air Force Academy campus. The Falcons held SDSU to 14 first half points.

Around the Mountain

There was a full slate of five Mountain West games on Saturday with only UNLV taking the weekend off. The scores:

• Boise State 87, San Jose State 64
• Air Force 62, San Diego State 48
• Colorado State 91, New Mexico 76
• Utah State 71, Wyoming 55
• No. 10 Nevada 74, Fresno State 64

Tuesday (times MT):
• No. 10 Nevada at Boise State, 7 (CBS Sports Network)
• New Mexico at San Diego State, 9 (CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday (times MT):
• Utah State at San Jose State, 8
• UNLV at Air Force, 9 (ESPNU)

Mountain West standings

3-0 Boise St
3-0 UNLV
3-1 Fresno St
3-1 Nevada
2-2 Colorado St
2-2 New Mexico
2-2 Utah St
1-2 SDSU
1-3 Air Force
0-3 SJSU
0-4 Wyoming

Meanwhile, down in El Paso…

On Thursday, the NMSU Aggies had a buzzer beater in Las Cruces. Forty miles south, the UTEP Miners got their crack at the same in the Don Haskins Center to beat Rice on Saturday.

Back to the future…

Forget looking back at Saturday’s game for a moment. Here’s a look to the future as future Lobo Emmanuel Andrew had a few nice highlights on Friday night:

Saturday’s plus/minus stats

Here are the +/- stats for the Lobos from Saturday’s game at CSU:

+4 Vladimir Pinchuk
+2 Drue Drinnon
0 Karim Ezzeddine
0 Tavian Percy
-6 Keith McGee
-7 Makuach Maluach
-8 Corey Manigault
-12 Vance Jackson
-14 Carlton Bragg
-15 Anthony Mathis
-19 Dane Kuiper

This guy was there

Not sure what to say about this one, other than this guy is always there watching on at Moby Arena.

Another number to know: 17

The Lobos had 17 turnovers against a CSU team that ranks 325th in the nation in defensive turnover rate, forcing opponents into turnovers just 15.6 percent of their possessions (the national average is 19.1).

Old Aggie tries an Old Aggie

This Old Aggie grabbed a bite to eat at Music City Hot Chicken on Friday night in Fort Collins and tried a pint of Old Aggie, the Colorado State themed lager from New Belgium Brewing.

The verdict? It was good stuff — the chicken and the beer. #WobbleOn

Grammer’s Guesses

The only result that really mattered to most Mountain West hoops fans on Saturday was clearly what happened between my picks and the picks from my daughter and her lucky coin.

Well, the Grammer’s Guesses went 3-2 against the spread and so did my daughter’s coin flip. The Grammer’s Guesses are now 12-8 on the season and my daughter’s #TeamCoin picks are 10-10, which is what you might think a coin flip should be. But anyone who followed her dang coin embarrassing me last season know better.

Until next time…

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