Emptying the Notebook: Controversial ending as UNM loses to Utah State - Albuquerque Journal

Emptying the Notebook: Controversial ending as UNM loses to Utah State

Here are some news, notes, tweets, videos, stats, quotes and whatever else I could find in the old notebook after Saturday’s 68-66 Utah State win over the UNM Lobos in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit:

No margin for error

The Lobos, as head coach Paul Weir has said over and again, have no margin for error. They simply haven’t proven to be good enough to overcome such self-inflicted errors as a ton of turnovers or horrible shooting nights.

And getting the bad end of a blown call in a key moment certainly qualifies as one of the things the Lobos aren’t good enough to overcome.

That is why getting told after a loss from the league offices that the head of officials agreed a call was blown didn’t help Weir or the Lobs feel better about the reality that they found another way to lose.

“I feel like Sean Payton,” Weir said at the start of his postgame presser.

The call switched the game from UNM with a one-point lead and possession to Utah State ball with a chance to win, it hurt Paul Weir.

It isn’t the first time it’s happened to the Lobos, who are all too familiar with that Mountain West postgame memo admitting an official’s blown call when the team had a lead in the closing seconds gave the other team a chance to tie or win.

Remember this? Feb. 6, 2016 — Mountain West: Call on UNM in-bounds play was incorrect

Mountain West: Call on UNM in-bounds play was incorrect

Anyway, the Lobos did plenty to lose again on Saturday. But also did plenty enough to win. The call did matter, so let’s take a look at the call and the statements made about it after the fact.

First, here is video of the call that head official Winston Stith said was a back court violation, meaning his determination was Anthony Mathis had established himself in the frontcourt then passed it into the backcourt to Vance Jackson:

I requested from UNM an official explanation from the officiating crew about what Stith had determined constituted the violation on that call. Instead of any sort of honest answer about what he saw, Stith chose to give an official statement that was essentially reading aloud what the rule book says constitutes backcourt. And he answered only after calls back and forth with the league and the head of officials and not with a reporter actually being able to ask the question in person.

Stith’s statement, as delivered to me by UNM Sports Information Director Frank Mercogliano: “Front court status is attained once all three points are across (ball and two feet). A ball that is not in contact with a player or the playing court retains the same status as when it was last in contact with a player.”

Thanks, Winston. Very helpful for those who invested time and emotion into Saturday’s game get a much clearer understanding of the biggest moment of the game from the man who made the call.

(SIDE NOTE: I’m not nearly as anti-official as most think I am, but I think it’s absurd that a person who plays such a key role in an event watched by nearly 11,000 people in person and thousands more on TV around the country doesn’t even have to answer, in an honest fashion, even one question about his impact on the most vital moment of that game. No coach or player gets that luxury.)

As for the Mountain West office, it at least was honest with its assessment, admitting about 90 minutes after the game that the call was wrong and saying it will be a part of upcoming, though internal, officiating reviews. Not that anything changes, but they at least found the value in acknowledging the call was wrong.

The Mountain West statement: “After postgame video review, the Mountain West has determined the whistle for a backcourt violation in the final minute of the Utah State at New Mexico men’s basketball game was incorrect. Inasmuch as the situation involved a judgment call, it was not reviewable via the instant replay monitor in accordance with NCAA Playing Rule 11-1.4. The matter will be addressed via the Conference’s internal officiating evaluation procedures.”

For a Lobos team that has now lost five off six, there is no moral victory in keeping it close or being told the call was blown.

And there shouldn’t be. Those are the breaks, even for a team at a time that seems like they can’t catch any breaks.

“To me, you want to be process oriented, not win and loss oriented,” said Weir. “Unfortunately, the losing takes a toll and this losing is taking a toll. We have to find a way to win some games while we’re process oriented because it’s really hard to just stick with that.”

The game winner

Of course, all that missed call stuff led to something, right? Here’s what it led to — the Abel Porter game-winning 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining.

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed from the Pit and posted by the crew back in the office:

Inhuman error: But it’s OVER, AND the Lobos can’t get it BACK

He said it, Part 1

“It was one of those feelings, you go with your gut, but it just felt like the way this game was going, the last team that has the ball was going to win the game. I felt like even if they scored, we couldn’t stop them the last 10 minutes and we’re a very good defensive team. But we struggled stopping them. I felt if we scored and they had the ball, they were going to make the last-second shot. You make a gut decision.” — Utah State coach Craig Smith on his decision to run the shot clock down at the end of the game with the ball, down 1, and 31 seconds on the shot clock after the back court violation was called on UNM.

Mathis got going in the second half

At halftime, I admit it. I was talking to another reporter on press row about how bad Anthony Mathis has been playing of late. He was held scoreless in the first half on 0-for-3 shooting, had a turnover and was at -8 on the +/- when he was on the court in the half.

And to start the second half, it wasn’t exactly much better for the Lobos leading scorer.

Then, in true Mathis fashion, he scored a bunch in a hurry.

Still scoreless and the clock flipped past the 14 minute mark in the second half, Mathis ended up with 16 points and four made 3-pointers in the final 13:58.

This one gave the Lobos their first lead since 2-0, and even brought out of Mathis a bit of a hop.

It seemed the only thing that might stop him was a headbutt he took that busted open his lip and left him bleeding all over the court and near the team bench late in the game.

He returned, though. And took all the Utah State defensive attention down the stretch.

A number to know

Here are some telling numbers from Saturday’s game, and why Utah State controlled the first half and UNM controlled the second half:

• 1st half points in the paint: Utah State 22, New Mexico 4
• 2nd half points in the paint: Utah State 8, New Mexico 14

D on Q

Entering the game, UNM head coach Paul Weir said of Neemias Queta, the 6-11 freshman phenom fro Portugal, that he’s an NBA player.

There might not be any player in the Mountain West who changes things around the rim on both ends of the court than Queta, who leads the league in blocked shots (he had three more on Saturday).

But the Lobos knew he was prone to get whistled for charges, and tried to use that to the team’s advantage, getting Queta in foul trouble. He still played 30 minutes, had eight points and 12 rebounds, but was largely held in check, though it was in a way that he was clearly still opening things up for his teammates. Here’s a four-frame picture from Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales that I tweeted during the game that showed just how the attention the Lobos gave Queta was opening things up for his teammates:

His main matchup was with Lobo junior forward Carlton Bragg, who has a career-high 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from the free throw line after drawing a game-high five fouls.

Much of Bragg’s success came from stretching Queta out of the lane, trying to pull him away from the rim and hitting 12-15 hoot jump shots over the Aggies big man:

Vlad’s line

There isn’t a Lobo who gets more groans and heckles from his own fans in the Pit, and on social media, than Vladimir Pinchuk. You can hear it every game.

And while I’m not about to say he needs any more minutes than he’s getting, I will point out his stat line on Saturday was pretty darn good, which has been the norm for most of his games. While the 6-foot-11 center isn’t offensively gifted, the reality is he isn’t trying to be. He knows his role and plays it about as well as anyone on the team.

His stats on Saturday, including being matched up against Utah State’s Neemius Queta pretty much the entire time he was in the game:

• 13:51 minutes
• 0-0 shots (that is correct, he didn’t even try to take a shot)
• 3 rebounds
• 4 fouls drawn
• 2 assists
• 1 blocked shot
• Team-best plus-8 +/- (in his 13:51 on the court, UNM outscored Utah State by eight points, the best, by far, of any Lobo on Saturday)

Meanwhile, in Logan…

The UNM women’s hoops team kept up their winning ways with a victory over Utah State in Logan, Utah, on Saturday afternoon, 68-64.

Here’s the Jayla Everett 3 in the final minute that would prove to be the game winner:

Meanwhile, in San Diego…

The Aztecs are still good at home. And the Rebels, who hadn’t played a team not in the bottom half of the league standings before Saturday, lost the first in a five game run of games that the computers predict will be an 0-5 stretch.

San Diego State beat UNLV 94-77, with Jalen McDaniels going off for 30 points, 13 rebounds, 5 steals and four assists, including a 3 at the buzzer that led to UNLV senior Kris Clyburn respond to a question saying that shot, the most inconsequential shot of the game, felt like a slap in the face. The sportsmanship in the SDSU/UNLV rivalry isn’t always great, and apparently Saturday wasn’t much different as that shot got a lot of attention from media and fans.

And yet, what I may remember about checking in on the game on Saturday night might be the fact that the Rebels took a bus home to Las Vegas because their charter plane was apparently broken into and the cockpit was damaged.

Oh, Mountain West. Never change.

Around the Mountain

There was a full slate of five Mountain West games on Saturday with only No. 7 Nevada sitting this one out with a bye. Here are the scores:

• Boise State 77, Wyoming 52
• Colorado State 74, Fresno State 65
• Utah State 68, New Mexico 66
• San Diego State 94, UNLV 77
• Air Force 73, San Jose State 71 (2OT)

Mountain West standings

Mountain West standings through Saturday:
6-1 Nevada
5-2 Fresno State
5-2 UNLV
5-2 Utah State
4-3 Boise State
4-4 Air Force
3-3 San Diego State
3-4 Colorado State
3-5 New Mexico
1-6 Wyoming
0-7 San Jose State

And for those interested in the +/- standings (plus-1 for a road win, minus-1 for a home loss):
+2 Fresno St
+2 Nevada
+2 Utah St
0 Air Force
0 Boise St
-1 UNM
-2 Wyoming

Former Lobos honored

The UNM Alumni Letterman Association honored dozens of former Lobo players (and a manager) at halftime of Saturday’s game. They were kind enough to give me a list of those honored, which I tweeted, but their pic from the court is better, so here is their tweet, with a list of players below:

Art Duran, 1952
Marvin Spallina, 1954
Micheal Keleher, 1955
Dave Syme, 1957
Jim Fleming, 1957
Gig Brummell, 1961
Frances Coffee, 1962
Dan Ficek, 1963
Ira Harge, 1964
Jim Howard, 1966
Ron Nelson, 1968
Ron Becker, 1970
Pete Gibson, 1971
Bob Toppert, 1975
Rich Pokorski, 1975
Steve Davis, 1977
George Scott, 1985
Niles Dockery, 1985
Paul Lawson, 1986
Kelvin Scarbourough, 1987
Trent Heffner, 1993
JJ Griego, 1994
Chad Toppert, 2009
Phillip McDonald, 2012
Kevin McCurdy (mgr), 2015

Meanwhile, in Edinburg, Texas

The New Mexico State Aggies got a game-winning layup with under 10 seconds left in their 63-61 road win at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley:

For those scoring at home, NMSU won and UNM lost.

For those scoring from their favorite sportsbook, NMSU (an 8-point favorite) did not cover the spread and UNM (a 6.5 point underdog) did.

Lobos plus/minus stats

Here are the plus/minus stats for the game for the Lobos with minutes played in parenthesis:

+8 Vladimir Pinchuk (13:51)
+4 Tavian Percy (9:52)
0 Dane Kuiper (25:18)
-2 Makuach Maluach (32:47)
-3 Carlton Bragg (27:59)
-3 Keith McGee (20:17)
-4 Vance Jackson (33:02)
-4 Anthony Mathis (33:45)
-6 Corey Manigault (3:09)

Some pictures

Here is a link to the photo gallery posted by Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales with one tweet of four of those pics to follow:

PHOTO GALLERY: Utah State at UNM (Jan. 26, 2019)

He said it, Part 2

“(The crowd) can feel like a wave and almost be suffocating for you. It was big thing we talked about with our guys is understanding what we’re getting into here, the environment. Some teams will run away from that, You a have to embrace it because it’s real. They played with tremendous energy especially in the second half. The environment was incredible and for us it felt like a tournament game.” — Utah State coach Craig Smith

Announced attendance

The announced attendance Saturday in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit: 10,752

Postgame video

Here is the video of Paul Weir, Carlton Bragg and Vance Jackson talking to reporters after Saturday’s game, as posted to the Journal’s Facebook page:

Avery Strong

Four years cancer free and still going #AveryStrong. The Lobos coaches, players and fans wore #AveryStrong shirts on Saturday in honor of associate head coach Chris Harriman’s son, Avery, and as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer week of games around the nation.

Trending down…

For the second consecutive game, the Lobos offense was held under 40 percent shooting. Utah State held the Lobos to 39.0 percent shooting overall — 15-35 (42.9 percent) on 2s; 8-24 (33.3 percent) on 3s.

The Lobos have been held under 40 percent six times this season, all losses and all in back-to-back games:

• 28.1 percent/34.8 percent in losses to NMSU and Saint Mary’s on Dec. 4/7
• 36.4 percent/39.3 percent in losses to North Texas and Penn on Dec. 18/22
• 35.5 percent/39.0 percent in losses to UNLV and Utah State on Jan. 22/26

Final stat sheet

Here’s the final stat sheet from Saturday’s game:

They could use these guys

Two guards not playing this season for the Lobos — JaQuan Lyle (our for season with Achilles injury) and Zane Martin (sitting out per NCAA transfer rules after averaging 19.8 points per game last season at Towson) were seen at halftime putting up a few shots before the teams took the floor for the second half.

Up next

The Lobos get their first bye of the season for the midweek games coming up. They next play on Saturday at Fresno State, 8 p.m., ESPNU, 770 AM/94.5 FM

Grammer’s Guesses

I’m back to not knowing how to pick games against the point spread. The Guesses went 1-4 on the day and my daughter’s #TeamCoin coin flip picks went 3-2. I’m 21-18 on the season and she’s now at 20-19.

It isn’t as though I didn’t have a feeling this was coming even before games started on Saturday:

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