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Emptying the Notebook: Lobos beat CSU in the Pit

A fan hung a sign in support of UNM Lobos coach Paul Weir on Saturday night above the Pit ramp in Dreamstyle Arena for the game against the Colorado State Rams. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

It can’t all fit in the print edition. Here are some extra notes, quotes, stats, videos and whatever other nonsense I could shake out of the old notebook after Saturday night’s 77-65 UNM win over the Colorado State Rams:

Some Weir love

Paul Weir’s taken a lot of heat the past week (and all season) for a variety of things.

The team pressed, then stopped. The team played man, was awful at it, then stopped. The team played zone, became awful at that (see the first CSU game, for example), then they backed off.

He’s tried different approaches at point guard, in the post, with player discipline, blamed himself excessively, then backed off, then went back to that approach this past week after the loss at San Jose State.

The inconsistent season and product on the court has mirrored at times his back and forth with trying to find the right balance between all the techniques that seemed to work so well at this time a year ago.

It’s worn thin for some, who want him gone in just his second season (remember, even Mike Locksley got a third season and he didn’t do what the Lobos did last season).

But not everyone is anti-Weir.

And it’s not just the fans. Aside from former players getting his back all week on social media, one of his own players finally spoke up Saturday, even if it was only after being asked directly about the growing noise around Weir.

“Obviously, it’s all over Twitter,” senior guard Anthony Mathis said. “It’s all everyone wants to talk about — ‘Coach Weir needs to be fired.’ They don’t see the behind the scenes stuff that he does day in and day out. How much he cares about this. There’s only so much a coach can do at some point. … If we don’t go out there and execute, it’s not doing very much (good), you know what I mean?”

And for a player who was hardly used in his first two years at UNM, then asked for and was granted his release from scholarship in the spring of 2017 only to end up staying when there was a coaching change from Craig Neal to Weir, Mathis feels the turnaround of his college career has been due in no small part to Weir believing in him. That’s why it bothers him so much when the impatient Lobos fan base that has embraced him isn’t all in on his coach, too.

“It really hurts me, personally, when I see people saying stuff like that,” Mathis said, “because I know how much he has done for me as a basketball player and a person and just this team. He cares so much for this team, people don’t even realize. It kind of hurts, you know?”

The gamer…

Here was the gamer filed from the Pit on Saturday night (another late start meant getting quotes and a story filed by deadline for the print edition wasn’t exactly pretty):

A number to know: 43

UNM has grabbed 43 offensive rebounds in the past two games — 26 at San Jose State and 17 on Saturday against Colorado State.

Part of that is because they’ve missed a lot of shots (yes, teams that are great offensive rebounding teams tend to miss a lot of shots since that’s a requirement to get an offensive rebound).

But 43 in two games is tremendous, no matter the opponent or the circumstances.

Consider…

The Lobos averaged 10.5 offensive rebounds through the first 26 games this season. The season high was 18 against an NAIA opponent and 16 against a Division I opponent.

Despite having one of the tallest rosters in the nation, the Lobos hadn’t grabbed even 10 offensive boards in the five games before this past week.

Then, 26 at San Jose State and 17 on Saturday.

“It’s been a major point of emphasis,” Paul Weir said. “All we’ve really done over the past couple weeks is talk about taking care of the basketball and rebounding.”

Whenever the Lobos have three players with four or more offensive rebounds, they’ll have a good chance at winning games. Saturday, Makuach Maluach had a career-high five offensive boards, Carlton Bragg and Corey Manigault had four apiece.

Said CSU coach Niko Medved: “That was the difference in the game that we could not keep them off the glass. We needed to get (CSU center Nico) Carvacho a little help on the boards and it didn’t happen.”

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins…

There will be a game for first place in the Mountain West women’s basketball standings on Monday night in Taco Bell Arena up north in Boise…

Dane’s back, Vlad’s out

UNM senior Dane Kuiper returned to the Lobos lineup on Saturday, playing 22 minutes after missing the past two games, and four overall this season, with knee tendonitis.

He is still not entirely healty percent and was held scoreless, but drew two fouls and played good defense in the eyes of his coach.

“He’s still, at whatever percent he is now, probably still our best defensive player,” Weir said. “Dane is a terrific defender. He’s a veteran. He looked a little rusty tonight, especially on the offensive end, … but he’s such a valuable defender for us.”

Sophomore big man Vladimir Pinchuk, meanwhile, was held out of the game with a bruised tailbone. While his presence wouldn’t have helped on offense, he is a good defender and could have helped against CSU’s Nico Carvacho, who ended up with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

“It hurt us tonight,” Weir said. “We needed him around the rim defensively. After Carlton, he’s our second best big man defensive points per possession.”

There is no indication if Pinchuk will be available against Boise State, and it’s huge post presence, but the injury isn’t expected to be a season ender.

“It doesn’t seem like anything long term,” Weir said.

Wait. Was that an entry pass?

As simple as it sounds to do, the Lobos have struggled, to put it mildly, to get the ball into post players with entry passes this season.

Since it hasn’t happened often, I wanted to make sure it showed up here when it does.

Here’s an over the top lob into the paint from Vance Jackson to Carlton Bragg in the second half on Saturday when CSU’s Carvacho tried to front Bragg.

Another number to know: 17/14

CSU scored 17 points off 14 UNM turnovers.

Regular readers of this column know the Lobos turn the ball over a lot. And not just in the way that the other team gets the ball, but often in a way that leads directly to points for the other team.

Saturday was no different.

“I’m about to set up a hotline for tips because I’m doing every single thing I can just as a coach to try and get us to take better care of the basketball,” UNM coach Paul Weir joked after Saturday’s game.

“I think anyone who has paid attention to us knows how much we’ve been tinkering all year long with what we do offensively, what we’ve done defensively, what we’ve done rotation wise, point guards, non-point guards, bigs. You name it. But we’ve yet to find a way to fix the turnovers. I think we’ve fixed the defense. I think we’ve fixed some different things. But we’ve got to find a way to take care of the basketball here in the last week and a half in order to finish the season strong.”

In CSU’s win over the Lobos in Fort Collins, it was 24 points off 17 UNM rebounds, so at least it’s getting better, I guess.

Meanwhile, in Logan

OK. So maybe the CSU at UNM game wasn’t the biggest game around the Mountain on Saturday.

With first place on the line in Logan, Utah, the Aggies had a sell-out crowd storm the court after its 81-76 win over No. 12 Nevada to take over (for now) sole possession of first place in the MWC standings.

Good for Utah State.

End of story, right?

Meanwhile, after the game in Logan…

This wouldn’t be the Mountain West if there wasn’t some drama beyond the drama, would it?

How’s this for some postgame video you don’t always get? (plug your ears, kiddos, it’s going to get vulgar):

Around the Mountain

There were five games around the Mountain West on Saturday. Here are the scores from Saturday and then a look ahead to the mid-week slate of games:

SATURDAY
• Air Force 80, Wyoming 72
• Utah State 81, No. 12 Nevada 76
• San Diego State 84, San Jose State 56
• New Mexico 77, Colorado State 65
• UNLV 85, Boise State 81 (OT)
(Fresno State bye)

TUESDAY (times MT)
• Utah State at Colorado State, 7
• Nevada at Air Force, 9

WEDNESDAY (times MT)
• Boise State at New Mexico, 7
• Fresno State at San Diego State, 8
• Wyoming at San Jose State, 8
(UNLV bye)

Mountain West standings

Through Saturday’s games…

14-3 Utah State
13-3 Nevada
11-5 Fresno State
11-5 San Diego State
10-7 UNLV
8-8 Air Force
7-9 Colorado State
6-10 Boise State
6-10 New Mexico
2-14 Wyoming
1-15 San Jose State

Lost in the madness

It may not mean much to some, but even with the fireworks in Logan, and locally the Lobos snapping that three-game losing streak with a good win over CSU, it would be silly not to give some props to one of the best guys in the Mountain West on a day he really deserves some kudos.

How about the job Dave Pilipovich has done at Air Force? The Falcons won at Wyoming on Saturday to improve to 8-8 in MWC play. That’s the most wins since his first year as head coach when, in a 16-game MWC schedule, the Falcons went 8-8.

Having two all-league caliber players in Lavelle Scottie and Ryan Swan sure help the cause.

The last time AFA had eight MWC wins was in 2013 when the eighth win was on the final day of the regular season and the Michael Lyons-led fly boys beat a top-10 ranked Lobos team with Tony Snell, Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood in Clune Arena.

For the Falcons to have eight league wins this season when picked to finish 10th (hey, I picked them ninth, at least) is very impressive.

Photos!

Here is a link to another great photo gallery of photos from Saturday’s game via the Journal’s great Roberto E. Rosales: Photos CSU at UNM (March 2, 2019)

Plus/minus stats

Here are the plus/minus stats from Saturday’s UNM win over CSU with Lobo player minutes in parenthesis at the end:

+22 Carlton Bragg (23:52)
+15 Makuach Maluach (33:43)
+14 Vance Jackson (31:17)
+9 Keith McGee (22:26)
+9 Anthony Mathis (33:12)
+6 Drue Drinnon (13:31)
+1 Jordan Arroyo (2:58)
-7 Corey Manigault (16:39)
-9 Dane Kuiper (22:22)

Postgame video: Weir, Mathis, Maluach

Here is the video of the postgame press conference with Paul Weir, Anthony Mathis and Makuach Maluach, as posted to the Journal’s Facebook page:

Final stat sheet

Attendance, here and everywhere

Yes, the 12-17 Colorado State Rams and the 12-16 UNM Lobos played on Saturday night with nothing more than maybe some positioning between the Nos. 6 and 9 seeds in next week’s Mountain West Tournament.

There wasn’t much to it.

But this is the Pit, and, as I wrote about in Saturday’s Journal, despite the struggles this season, Lobo fans still show up.

And UNM wasn’t the only place that showed up and showed out on Saturday. There were impressive attendance figures across the league:

• 11,258 – SJSU at SDSU
• 11,207 – CSU at New Mexico
• 10,385 – No. 12 Nevada at Utah State
• 9,301 – Boise State at UNLV
• 3,991 – Air Force at Wyoming

Meanwhile, in Japan…

This tweet clearly says former Lobo and former Los ALamos High star Alex Kirk is about to do something impressive…

Up next

The Lobos have one home game left this season: Senior night on Wednesday vs. Boise State. The game was originally scheduled for 9 p.m., but has been moved up to 7 p.m. when the game was switched to ESPN3.com instead of getting picked up by television.

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 2-3 on Saturday and I’m now 44-43-2 against the spread on the season.

My daughter’s #TeamCoin coin flip picks have had a rough season, but she beat me this time. She went 3-2 on the day and is at 39-48-2 ATS.

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