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Emptying the Notebook: Caldwell’s quiet domination at Wyoming

The University of Wyoming’s Arena Auditorium on Dec. 7, 2019, in Laramie, Wyo. (Geoff Grammer/Albuquerque Journal)

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Here are some extra notes, quotes, news, stats, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Saturday night’s 79-65 UNM road win over the Wyoming Cowboys:

Oh, that drive…

J.J. Caldwell nearly posted a triple double on Saturday and I have to admit, I didn’t even realize how close he was until I looked at the box score AFTER the game was over.

He racked up the assists part of the equation with drives like this into the lane with a late dish to a teammate, in this case Lobos high-point man Corey Manigault, for the alley-oop.

I follow the stats throughout the game and take notes when I see trends or big stat nights starting to develop.

Not Saturday.

Not with Caldwell.

I had no idea he was doing what he was doing, and this coming five days after I wrote an article about him being as important a player as any Lobo this season even if others don’t see how important what he’s doing is.

In that article, I included reference at the top of KenPom.com’s player categorization of Caldwell as “nearly invisible” on the floor. Well, KenPom.com on Saturday labeled Caldwell as the game’s statistical MVP (a distinction that is computer generated and given to the player with the largest statistical impact on the game).

Caldwell’s stat line on Saturday:

• 8 points (3-5 shooting/2-2 free throws)
• 10 rebounds (3 offensive/7 defensive)
• 9 assists (he had 16 in two Mountain West wins this week)
• 3 steals (4 for the week)

It makes sense that the 10 rebounds might sneak up on people for two reasons.

First, Caldwell was often the smallest guy on the court and point guards hauling in 10 rebounds is a rarity, especially on a roster with a rebounding machine like Carlton Bragg.

Second, the Wyoming Cowboys rank 353rd out of 353 Division I teams in offensive rebounding rate, meaning they don’t even try to get offensive rebounds unless the pretty much bounce off the rim directly at on of their players. They, instead, emphasize getting back on defense to slow transition points (UNM still had 16 of them on Saturday). So, there were some more rebounds available in general to the Lobos without much of a fight.

Still, that work on the boards wasn’t being ignored by his coach.

“I noticed the defensive rebounds,” UNM head coach Paul Weir said. “The assists I think just kind of happened in the flow of the game. Maybe I wasn’t really paying attention to those, but I thought he did a great job on the defensive backboard, which was terrific. And I thought he had some really key steals for us.”

On the season, Caldwell is averaging 5.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Oh, that other drive…

OK, so I know it’s not winter like I put in my tweet, but you get the point.

The drive up highway 287 north from Fort Collins, Colo., to Laramie, Wyo., is as good as any in college basketball. Well, as long as there isn’t black ice on the roads and white knuckles on the steering wheel as your rental car is sliding off the road at night.

Luckily, this trip offered just the beautiful part.

The gamer

Here is a link to the gamer I filed from the Arena Auditorium after Saturday’s game:

While the gamer hammered home just how dominant at the rim the Lobos were against the undersized Cowboys, let me show even more stats that illustrate that anyway:

• Points in the paint: UNM 44/WYO 24
(No previous Wyoming opponent has scored more than 30 points in the paint)

• plus-18 rebounding margin: UNM 47/WYO 29
(That’s the second worst for the Cowboys behind a 20-rebound discrepancy in their 66-32 loss at South Carolina when the Gamecocks had 41 rebounds to UW’s 21.

• Corey Manigault/Carlton Bragg combined for 33 points, 22 rebounds, three blocks and shot 13-of-18 (72.2%) from the floor while also shooting 10 of UNM’s 20 free throws.

So, yeah. When the Lobos want to be good at the rim, they are pretty good at the rim.

Speaking of Bragg

Carlton Bragg has had two career games in Laramie. His stats:

• Game 1 (March 9): 22 points, 20 rebounds (7 offensive), 9-16 shooting, 4-5 FTs, 3 steals
• Game 2 (Saturday): 15 points, 15 rebounds (4 offensive), 6-9 shooting, 3-4 FTs, 3 blocks, 1 steal
• Averages in the AA: 18.5 points, 17.5 rebounds (5.5 offensive), 60.0% FG, 77.8% FT, 1.5 blocks, 2.0 steals

Wait, am I in the right place?

Apparently the bus company out of Fort Collins that does a lot of team travel in the area couldn’t peel off the Boise State sticker from last weekend when the Broncos football team played at Colorado State.

The result, the Lobos spent Friday and Saturday driving around town in a bus with a Boise State sticker, or most of it, on the side.

‘The Electric Man’ Fennis Dembo

From a historical perspective, the big news around Laramie on Saturday wasn’t the game, but the return to Laramie of Fennis Dembo, the former Cowboys super star and All-American from the 1980s who was one of the all-time Lobo rivals. And why not? He talked a ton of trash and scored more than 2,300 points in his college career.

Saturday, is was Fennis Dembo bobblehead giveaway at the AA and he also had his jersey retired at halftime, becoming just the second player so honored by the school.

And during his halftime ceremony, he said he was never able to bring a national championship ring back to Laramie, so he wanted to give the university his NBA championship ring he earned playing for the Detroit Pistons.

Here’s some video I shot from the rafters in the arena of what he described as his marrying the Wyoming Athletics Department by giving it a ring.

He said it

“I haven’t really talked about winning all year long. This is game 11 now. I have never once said we need this one or anything about winning. This was probably the first game I said prior, ‘Guys, this game’s gonna matter in February and March. By one, by 20, whatever. We’ve got to find a way to get this one.’ And thankfully we did.” — UNM coach Paul Weir

It’s been said several times so far this season that the Lobos won an ugly or tight game and it was one they probably would have lost last year.

Well, Saturday was one they lost last year at the Arena Auditorium, 88-81 on March 9, in the regular season finale to the 2018-19 season. Four days later, the Lobos beat Wyoming in the Mountain West Tournament, but one more win would have had them tied for sixth in the season’s final standings rather than in a three-way tie for seventh.

A number to know: 19

The Lobos turned the ball over 19 times on Saturday, more than the team’s previous two games combined (15 – nine vs. Montana and six vs. Boise State).

In a 76 possession game, that equates to a turnover rate of 25% (One in every four UNM offensive possessions ended in a turnover to Wyoming… that’s crazy high).

The 19 turnovers was also a season-high for a Wyoming opponent.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque…

Things aren’t going as well for the UNM Lobo women’s basketball team, which lost in the Pit on Saturday to Wyoming and is now 0-2 in Mountain West play.

Here’s the gamer filed from Albuquerque by Journal colleague Ken Sickenger.

Didn’t make the trip

Kurt Wegscheider, the Lobos freshman guard, didn’t make the Laramie trip because he has the flu.

Je33up did it again

So, remember that Justinian Jessup guy? The Boise State guard who hit six 3-pointers (of 10 tries) and scored 24 points in Wednesday’s 80-78 Lobos win over the Boise State Broncos?

Well, on Saturday on his home court against the Colorado State Rams, he did even better. Jessup scored 27 points and hit 7-of-11 3-pointers.

For those scoring at home…

Justinian Jessup in two MWC games this week:
• 51 points (25.5/game)
• 13 made 3-pointers (6.5/game)
• 61.9% 3FG

Justinian Jessup in six non-conference games:
• 89 points (14.8/game)
• 14 made 3-pointers (2.3/game)
• 29.8% 3FG

Meanwhile, in Logan…

Fresno State has struggled, to say the least. They are 2-6 on the season with one of those wins being a buzzer-beater at home to beat Winthrop and the other being against a non-Division I opponent.

So when they were scheduled to head to Logan, Utah, on Saturday to play No. 25 Utah State, not many, myself included, gave them much of a chance.

And while they didn’t win, pushing the nationally-ranked Aggies to overtime was quite impressive.

Around the Mountain

There were four Mountain West games and one non-conference game played on Saturday with one more league game coming on Sunday.

SATURDAY
• No. 25 Utah State 77, Fresno State 70 (OT)
• Nevada 100, Air Force 85
• New Mexico 79, Wyoming 65
• Boise State 75, Colorado State 64

(nonconference)
• BYU 83, UNLV 50

SUNDAY
• San Jose State at San Diego State, noon PT/1 p.m. MT

Mountain West standings

Here are the MWC standings through Saturday’s games with overall records in parenthesis:
2-0 Utah State (9-1)
2-0 New Mexico (9-2)
1-0 San Diego State (9-0)
1-0 Nevada (7-3)
1-0 UNLV (4-7)
1-1 Boise State (5-3)
1-1 Air Force (4-6)
0-1 San Jose State (3-6)
0-2 Colorado State (6-5)
0-2 Fresno State (2-6)
0-2 Wyoming (3-7)

Meanwhile, in Madison…

For those keeping tabs on past Lobo opponents…

Not a bad win for the Badgers as Indiana was undefeated before their trip to Madison.

Meanwhile, in Spokane…

For those keeping tabs on past AND future Lobos opponents…

The Aggies now fall to 5-5 on the season, play at Denver on Tuesday and at Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit on Dec. 14 for the rivalry rematch with the Lobos.

Plus/minus stats

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

+15 Makuach Maluach (31)
+14 Carlton Bragg (26)
+13 J.J. Caldwell (35)
+9 JaQuan Lyle (36)
+8 Tavian Percy (15)
+7 Vance Jackson (16)
+6 Zane Martin (10)
+1 Corey Manigault (26)
-3 Keith McGee (5)

Postgame video

Here is the postgame interview I had with Paul Weir after Saturday’s game in Laramie, as posted the Journal’s YouTube page:

Attendance

The announced attendance at Arena Auditorium on Saturday in Laramie: 3,659

Box score

Here’s a pic to the final box score I was handed on media row:

And if you’d like a link to the digital version, CLICK HERE.

Another number to know: 11

The Lobos have already played 11 games. Of the 353 Division I basketball teams, only three — Pacific (9-3), Purdue-Ft. Wayne (6-6) and Florida Gulf Coast (2-10) — have played more games to this point.

Only three KenPom Top 100 teams have played 11 games yet, mostly because it’s rare for good programs to feel they have to load up on that many games by the first week of December. The first month of the season is often the lower-level teams taking buy games wherever they can get them.

The three KenPom Top 100 teams that have already played 11 games through Saturday:

• Vermont (7-4, KenPom 80, America East Conference)
• Yale (8-3, KenPom 86, Ivy League)
• New Mexico (9-2, KenPom 90, Mountain West)

Around the state

There were two big wins for the state of New Mexico at events outside of New Mexico on Saturday.

First, New Mexico actually does have a college football bowl champion after all…

Second, New Mexico’s own Tim Means pulled off a huge UFC win on Saturday night, beating Thiago Alves…

Lead changes

Wednesday, the Boise State/UNM game had 17 lead changes.

Saturday, there were two — when Wyoming took a 3-2 lead and when UNM took it right back 4-3 in the opening minutes and never trailed again.

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 2-2 on Saturday and I’m now 4-5 on the season picking Mountain West games against the point spread.

My 10-year-old daughter, Jaedyn, also went 2-2 on Saturday with her coin flip picks (she and I actually had the same four picks). She is now 3-6 on the season.

Then there’s my 4-month-old daughter, Amelia, who I’m being a good parent and getting into gambling early (we hold two toys in front of her representing two teams in a game I predetermine and see which she grabs first). With two Baby Girl Grammer Bonus Game picks this week, she actually went 2-0. Saturday she picked Nevada to win by at least 3.5 points (they did, by plenty) and on Wednesday she picked San Diego State to win by at least 5.5 points (and they did, by plenty).

Until next time…

Until next time, Arena Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo., …

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