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Emptying the Notebook: Lobos beat Wyoming in Mountain West Tournament

Wyoming Cowboys super fan Ken Koretos, a fixture at Mountain West Tournament, was all smiles on Wednesday despite his Cowboys faltering down the stretch and letting a double digit lead slip away in the second half against UNM in the Thomas & Mack Center. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Here are some extra odds & ends, videos, tweets, stats, news, notes, and quotes I emptied out of the old notebook after Wednesday’s 78-68 UNM Lobos win over the Wyoming Cowboys in the Mountain West Tournament:

3 minutes that extended the season

Sometime during the first half of Wednesday’s Mountain West first round game between the UNM Lobos and Wyoming Cowboys, probably about the time the Lobos were down 16 points and had back-to-back shot clock violations and didn’t seem to be listening the pleas of their coaching staff from the bench, I was thinking (and posting on Twitter) this was about as bad as I’ve seen a Lobos team look in March since the dismal 2015 team that lost a play-in game to Air Force.

And that’s still true. In that moment, what I was seeing was that bad.

But, like much of this season, despite what many fans want to believe, this isn’t a team that is defined by one half or one moment. Broad stroke proclamations about this team being awful or being great or having talent or not or having a bad coach or a great one all simply fall flat when you just wait it out a few minutes and they do something completely different.

They are consistently inconsistent with ups and downs unlike the wildest of roller coasters.

Just when it looked like the ride was coming to an end, they had one more surprise in store.

With 12:49 left in the game, trailing 47-36, Vance Jackson saw to it that the game, and the Lobos season, wasn’t over yet.

Here is a quick recap of what Jackson, and other Lobos, did in that jaw-dropping three-minute, five possession (five for Wyoming/five for UNM) stretch that saved the game and, for at least one day, the Lobos season:

Wyoming 47, New Mexico 36
• Wyoming ball (12:49 2H) – Jackson steal
• New Mexico ball (12:46 2H) – Jackson layup

Wyoming 47, New Mexico 38
• Wyoming ball (12:20 2H) – A.J. Banks miss, Dane Kuiper rebound
• New Mexico ball (12:07 2H) – Drue Drinnon assist, Jackson 3-pointer

Wyoming 47, New Mexico 41
• Wyoming ball (11:43 2H) – Justing James missed 3-pointer, Dane Kuiper rebound
• New Mexico ball (11:18 2H) – Jackson layup and foul for a 3-point play

Wyoming 47, New Mexico 44
• Wyoming ball (10:49 2H) – Jake Hendricks missed 3-pointer, Dane Kuiper rebound
• New Mexico ball (10:27 2H) – Jackson layup

Wyoming 47, New Mexico 46
• Wyoming ball (10:13 2H) – Wyoming turnover (10 second violation against the Lobos full-court press)
• New Mexico ball (9:49 2H) – Drue Drinnon missed 3-pointer; (9:52 2H) – Anthony Mathis offensive rebound; (9:47 2H) – Mathis assist, Jackson 3-pointer

New Mexico 49, Wyoming 47

For those scoring at home: Wyoming was 0-3 with two turnovers due to Lobo defense; UNM was 5-6 (1-1 free throws) with one steal, three Kuiper defensive rebounds, one Anthony Mathis offensive rebound and two assists (Drinnon and Mathis)… oh, and 13 consecutive points for Jackson, who then began strumming an air guitar on his way back down the court.

And shortly after that stretch, Jackson wasn’t done.

In all, Jackson had 21 points in the second half for the type of final stat line that will make him a Lobo fans talk about for years, even if just for this one game:

• Vance Jackson: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals

In fact, later on in the night, they had to delay the start of the women’s championship game as the nets on the end of the court Jackson shot on in the second half were still on fire.

The gamer

Here was the gamer I filed from the media room in the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night…

A number to know: 103

Lobos senior guard Anthony Mathis was just 1-of-13 shooting on Wednesday, but the one was big.

His 3-pointer with 7:59 left in the first half game him 103 3-pointers this season, a new single season record for the Lobos, breaking the previous mark of 102 held by Kevin Henry from the 1998-99 season.

On another Mathis 3-point related note, Wednesday marked the first time this season the Lobos won a game in which Mathis didn’t hit at least two 3-pointers.

Also, to be clear since I saw one reply on social media suggesting the record shouldn’t count because it came in the postseason, I will point out without the FIVE postseason games the 1998-99 Lobos played in (three in the WAC Tournament and two in the NCAA Tournament), Kevin Henry’s record would have been broken by Mathis several weeks ago.

Yes, they’re young

Call it an excuse or whatever you’d like. But it’s not wrong to say the Lobos are relying on some players who have far less experience than some of the other top teams in the Mountain West.

Lobos coach Paul Weir was about some of the key contributors in Wednesday’s win over Wyoming, and names that came up from reporters included Drue Drinnon (a freshman) and Vance Jackson, Makuach Maluach, Keith McGee and Vladimir Pinchuk (all sophomores).

“I like all those guys,” Weir said. “I like Vance. I like Makuach. I like Keith. Those are three sophomores that are exceptionally talented. I’ve tried to tell all of them — not just Vance, Keith or Makuach — that these guys they’re trying to catch — the Justin Jameses (Wyoming’s senior), the Deshon Taylors (Fresno State’s fifth year senior, who also has a fifth year senior teammate in Braxton Huggins), the Martin brothers (Caleb and Cody at Nevada, both fifth year seniors); I can go on and on with the great players. They’re fourth- and fifth-year players. They just are. And these are tremendously talented sophomores that I think are going to matriculate into being those kinds of names and players.

“But that process to get there is ugly sometimes. It’s not pretty. It’s not every night is going to be sexy. There’s some ugly nights along the way. And these great players I just mentioned, they had ugly nights along the way too. We just have to endure those, learn from them and grow from them, and just allow their careers to kind of grow from there.”

Around the Mountain

There were three games played Wednesday in the Mountain West Tournament’s first round (or play-in round as most refer to it):

• No. 8 Boise State 66, No. 9 Colorado State 57
• No. 7 New Mexico 78, No. 10 Wyoming 68
• No. 6 Air Force 87, No. 11 San Jose State 56

QUARTERFINALS
(all games on CBS Sports Network)
• No. 1 Nevada vs No. 8 Boise State, noon PT/1 MT
• No. 4 San Diego State vs No. 5 UNLV, 2:30 PT/3:30 MT
• No. 2 Utah State vs No. 7 New Mexico, 6 PT/7 MT
• No. 3 Fresno State vs No. 6 Air Force, 8:30 PT/9:30 MT

Play in history

Since the Mountain West grew to 11 teams for the 2013-14 season, and expanded its conference tournament to accommodate that with multiple first round/play in games, the lower seed (higher ranked team) is 11-3.

Of the three “upsets” with a higher seed beating the better seeded team, two of those were No. 9 seeds beating the No. 8 seed.

In 2015, there were only two play-in games as San Jose State faced a postseason probation.

Love is in the air

Not only did this happen in Las Vegas on Wednesday…

But so did this!

And it isn’t a Mountain West Tournament without this old friend!

Another number to know: 6-1

With Wednesday’s win, Paul Weir’s record in conference tournaments as a head coach is now 6-1.

Weir was 3-0, winning the WAC Tournament in his one season as New Mexico State University’s head coach and is now 3-1 as the Lobos coach in the Mountain West Tournament.

Here are the Mountain West Tournament records of UNM’s five coaches in the 20 years Mountain West existence:

Sorted by wins
8-4 Steve Alford
3-1 Paul Weir
3-3 Craig Neal
3-4 Ritchie McKay
2-3 Fran Fraschilla

Sorted by win .pct
.750 Paul Weir
.667 Steve Alford
.500 Craig Neal
.429 Ritchie McKay
.400 Fran Fraschilla

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque…

That whole student part of the student-athlete thing also had a pretty cool Lobo basketball win on Wednesday.

Here is J.R. Giddens back in Albuquerque showing off the college degree he finally got from UNM after working with Paul Weir this past summer to get back into classes to finish his degree, which he had put off when he was drafted into the NBA and continues a professional basketball career around the world.

Some pics

Here are some pictures from UNM’s Daily Lobo photographer Cameron Goeldner:

He said it, Boise State edition

“We haven’t been playing on day one. We finished in the top three four straight years, and so this was new for us. So far, I like it. Not going to try to do it again, but I like it.” — Boise State head coach Leon Rice on winning a play-in game before facing a top seed in the quarterfinals.

He said it, Air Force edition

Let’s go to the video daily double for this one…

Plus/minus

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

+22 Vance Jackson (35)
+20 Dane Kuiper (24)
+15 Vladimir Pinchuk (13)
+13 Anthony Mathis (39)
+8 Drue Drinnon (17)
+6 Carlton Bragg (18)
-2 Tavian Percy (2)
-5 Keith McGee (12)
-7 Makuach Maluach (28)
-20 Corey Manigault (12)

Final stat sheet

Here’s a pic of the final stat sheet from Wednesday’s game:

And here’s a link to the digital version: UNM 78, Wyoming 68

Just how good was that 2nd half?

At least one Lobo fan hit the road for Las Vegas after the game.

Pit West

Fans like that are why at least a half dozen people asked talked to me about the amazing turn out of Lobo fans in the Thomas & Mack, which had an announced session attendance (all three games) of 5,578.

In a season with a sub-.500 record, the Lobo fan base — by miles — was the biggest of the bunch in an after game of the Mountain West Tournament play-in round.

While Lobo fans are quick to gripe about how good it used to be, many others remain throughly impressed with what it still is right now.

Meanwhile, in the women’s championship

After the three men’s games on Wednesday, the Mountain West crowned a women’s champion.

For the third year in a row, it was the Boise State Broncos. The top seed in the tournament was a 68-51 winner of No. 3 Wyoming and will play in the NCAA Tournament.

Grammer’s Guesses

We get to pretend the regular season record didn’t count, right?

The Guesses did go a perfect 3-0 on Wednesday.

Not done yet, but…

I usually end this Emptying the Notebook columns with my “Until next time…” tweets with an empty arena picture.

Well, I’m still in Las Vegas, the Lobos are still playing and there wasn’t an empty arena after the Lobos game with more tournament games still to play.

So, let’s check in on the NMAA’s J.P. Murrieta back in Albuquerque with the state high school tournament going on in the Pit…

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