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Emptying the Notebook: Was UNM’s Montana win better than it looked?


From left, UNM Lobo forward Carlton Bragg, Montana Grizzlies Jared Samuelson and Mack Anderson, and UNM Lobo point guard J.J. Caldwell battle for a loose ball during Sunday’s game at Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Here are a few extra notes, quotes, stats, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after UNM’s 72-63 win over Montana in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit on Sunday afternoon:

But the numbers say…

Who are you going to believe? The stat sheet or your lying eyes?

OK, so that old saying was never about a basketball stat sheet, but you get the point.

An awful lot of people in Dreamstyle Arena on Sunday afternoon saw what appeared to be a rather low-energy, rough on the edges sort of game from the Lobos. Maybe even a bad performance, if you judge by the tone of some social media comments after the game.

Yes, it was a win, but in what is becoming the trademark of the Pit crowd over the past half decade of no postseason play, there were plenty of groans and a lot of assuming the team should have just blown out the opponent, despite blowouts not really being the norm in the Pit on any regular basis in the arena in a real long time.

And it’s worth noting, Montana has won 26 games in each of the past two seasons and 20 or more in four of the first five seasons under coach Travis DeCuire. That wasn’t a team the Lobos should have blown out.

But still, I saw the game, too. It just didn’t look great for UNM. And I’m not about to try and change anybody’s mind about what they saw on Sunday. In fact, I asked several questions in the postgame press conference about the team’s struggles, both on offense and defense, so my general consensus was the same. It seemed like a sub-par performance by UNM.

But then I did a deep dive on the stat sheet like I do after every game. The box score actually shows a bit of a different story. And it’s something the Lobo coaching staff seemed to be well aware of throughout the game.

“I was pleading with the guys at halftime,” said Lobos coach Paul Weir. “I told them, ‘Guys, we played a pretty darn good half.’ If you told me that was going to be a foul discrepancy, the free-throw discrepancy, all the way down the line, field goal percentages, we had a good half and unfortunately we just didn’t quite seem to get that energy and pop I would ha’ve liked.”

Short of free throw shooting, the Lobos actually won state battles across the board. And, as a 10-point betting favorite that won by nine, the team pretty much played to the level the Las Vegas oddsmaker’s predicted.

But there were those free throws. UNM shot a ton more of them than Montana (35 attempts to 7), but if you miss 13 like UNM did (eight in the first half, including two technical foul shot misses and the front end of 1-and-1 free throws twice), that’s actually a lot of empty possessions for the Lobos and giving the ball back to the Grizzlies without scoring. And in a 65-possession game, racking up empty possessions because of missed free throws takes its toll, as Sunday showed.

Still, the rest of the stat sheet was pretty one-sided:

• UNM committed a season-low 9 turnovers
• UNM dominated the boards, 43-31; had 11 offensive rebounds to Montana’s 4; and out-scored the Grizzlies in second chance points 15-3
• UNM assisted on 15 of 22 made field goals, the second-best assist rate (68.2%) of the season

And take a look at the points per possession scored by Montana opponents this season, including three from power conferences. It turns out, UNM’s offense, despite the free throw trouble, was still the most efficient against Montana all season in terms of points per possession:

• 1.04 – Stanford (Pac-12)
• 0.75 – Montana State Northern (non-DI)
• 0.94 – Arkansas (SEC)
• 1.10 – Montana Tech (non-DI)
• 0.96 – Washington (Pac-12)
• 0.84 – Texas Southern (SWAC)
• 0.86 – Coppin State (MEAC)
• 1.11 – New Mexico (MWC)

The gamer

Here is the gamer I filed Sunday afternoon after the game:

Baby races for the win!

For the first time this season, college basketball’s best halftime show, at UNM or at all the other places that do it, was on display in the Pit.

Baby races! Or, in this case, the Diaper Dash!

And from those who actually had a hand in putting the races on…

He said it

“More to come. But not many.” — Lobo senior forward Carlton Bragg on his hitting a 3-pointer in the first half on Sunday.

It was Bragg’s first made 3-pointer since hitting four of them his freshman season (2015-16) at Kansas.

A number to know: 7-2

UNM’s 7-2 start is the program’s best start through nine games since a 7-2 start to the 2015-16 season. In the past 21 seasons (the Mountain West era at UNM), the Lobos have had just five better starts through nine games:

• 9-0 (2012-13 season under Steve Alford)
• 9-0 (2009-10 season under Steve Alford)
• 8-1 (2010-11 season under Steve Alford)
• 8-1 (2004-05 season under Ritchie McKay)
• 8-1 (2000-01 season under Fran Frascilla)

Meanwhile, in Fort Collins…

Don’t look now, but the Colorado State Rams are 6-3 heading into conference play…

Around the Mountain

There were four games around the Mountain West on Sunday and a full slate of five conference games, and one non-conference tilt, coming up on Wednesday:

• New Mexico 72, Montana 63
• Air Force 76, Jackson State 52
• Colorado State 92, Utah Valley 61
• UCLA 93, San Jose State 64

(times posted here are MT)
• San Diego State at Colorado State, 7 p.m.
• Air Force at Wyoming, 7 p.m.
• Boise State at New Mexico, 7 p.m. (Stadium)
• UNLV at Fresno State, 8 p.m.
• Utah State at San Jose State, 9:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
– –
• Santa Clara at Nevada, 8 p.m. (non-conference)

On Tavian

It’s still unclear where the minutes are going to come from, especially in two weeks with the expected eligibility of sophomore guard Vante Hendrix, but what has become clear for the Lobos is sophomore guard Tavian Percy probably needs to play more.

His 5 minutes, 43 seconds played in the first half on Sunday (he didn’t play in the second half) came with a plus-9 scoring differential for the Lobos while he was on the court. Broken down per minute, his time on the court coincided statistically with the best performance the Lobos had all game.

He had three points, two rebounds, an assist, hit a 3-pointer and, as he seems to be doing on a regular basis of late, he played really good defense.

So I asked Paul Weir about Percy’s play and what he needs from players like him off the bench.

“The best part about Tavian, it’s not (just) the energy and the defense he’s given us, he’s moving the ball on offense and when he came in he had a chance to kind of drive and he pulled it back out and kicked it to somebody else and we end up getting the basket,” Weir said. “That’s what we need out of guys. We … don’t need guys coming in trying to press and trying to score, we need guys to help move the ball and keep our rhythm going with those guys coming in.

“Tavian’s been excellent. I wish I can find him some more minutes. I hope we can continue to because he’s made a great jump in his freshman year and I’m really excited hopefully about where his career is gonna go.”

Percy’s 3-pointer came off a beautiful cross-court bounce pass from JaQuan Lyle and caught the eye of another guy who was known to hit a few 3s in the Pit in his time with the team.

Lyle FTs

The Lobos were awful at the free throw line in the first half on Sunday, and the worst of the bunch was JaQuan Lyle, something the career 72.7% free throw shooter, including his two seasons at Ohio State, isn’t known for. He was 34-of-43 (79.1%) entering Sunday’s game on the season.

In the first half on Sunday, he was 1-for-6 at the free throw line. So, when the team came out from the locker room at halftime and his teammates were warming up with layups, Lyle was shooting free throws, instead.


The announced attendance in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit for Sunday’s Montana game: 10,503

Meanwhile, in Miami…

There wasn’t a lot to cheer for in the football world for UNM this season. Or for the Miami Dolphins, for that matter.

On Sunday, however, former Lobo kicker Jason Sanders became the first NFL kicker since 1977 to catch a touchdown pass.

And the play caught the attention of another former Lobo kicker…

Plus/minus stats…

Here are the always popular plus/minus stats from Sunday’s games with player minutes in parenthesis:

+22 Carlton Bragg (30:44)
+14 JaQuan Lyle (35:38)
+12 Vance Jackson (27:41)
+9 Tavian Percy (5:43)
+7 J.J. Caldwell (32:47)
-1 Zane Martin (22:11)
-3 Corey Manigault (13:38)
-6 Makuach Maluach (25:15)
-9 Keith McGee (6:23)

Box score

Here is a tweet showing the final box score, as handed out on press row:

And if you’d like the HTML version, CLICK HERE.

Video: Weir, Bragg, Martin

Here’s the postgame press conference with UNM coach Paul Weir and players Carlton Bragg and Zane Martin, as posted to the Journal’s YouTube page:

Up next

Wednesday: Boise State at UNM, 7 p.m., Stadium (online/no TV), 770 AM/94.5 FM

Out of the timeout

While this video cuts off the set up and first part of the play, it’s still worth sharing as one of the better out of timeout plays I remember seeing this season for the Lobos — a play that got Makuach Maluach a great look in the middle of the floor for a dunk down the lane.

Another number to know: 1

UNM has used one starting lineup this season.

In 2018-19, it was 22 starting lineups. In 2017-18, it was 21 starting lineups.

He said it, err, tweeted it

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