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Emptying the notebook: Bragg’s back, defending 3s and 11-0 in the Pit

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Lobo senior forward Carlton Bragg, right, defends Fresno State’s Jarred Hyder during Tuesday’s game in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL)

Here are a few more notes, quotes, tweets, stats, videos and whatever else I could empty out of the old notebook after Tuesday’s 78-64 UNM win over Fresno State in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit:

More 3s, please

The Lobos have been vulnerable to the 3-point shot this season. That’s not news.

Fresno State shoots a ton of 3s this season. That’s not news either.

But based on how things had been going lately for both teams, what is pretty newsworthy is that the Lobos out-performed the Bulldogs at the 3-point line in Tuesday night’s 78-64 win.

The Lobos hit 9-of-22 (40.9%) of their 3-pointers, which ties for the second most the team has made in a game this season (the season high was 14 vs. Grand Canyon on Dec. 17). A big part of the success on Tuesday, obviously, was the continued re-emergence of junior forward Vance Jackson, who was 6-of-7 from beyond the arc as part of his monster 29-point game.

As a team, nine made 3s is a huge night for UNM considering it hit more than six in a game only once in the previous 14 games and ranks 331st out of 353 Division I teams in percentage of points scored from 3-pointers (22.4%).

Fresno State, meanwhile, attempts the ninth most 3-pointers per game in the country and was coming off a win over San Jose State in which the team hit 15 triples (New Williams had 10 by himself). Couple that with the Lobos last time out, a Jan. 1 loss against that same San Jose State team, in which UNM allowed 12 3’s and seven to one player alone.

So, when Fresno State hit its first three 3-pointers on Tuesday and the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-5 lead in the first five minutes, panic was beginning to set in with at least a few Lobo fans.

But then, UNM managed again to let another high-volume 3-point shooting team not hurt them from deep, at least enough to lose the game. Fresno State’s 3-3 start turned to the team hitting just three of its next 18 (16.8%).

“I still like our defense,” UNM coach Paul Weir said. “We’re not going to start changing things and run around, giving up a lot around the rim. Defensively, it worked tonight. Obviously it didn’t against San Jose.”

As Weir has explained before, the Lobos prioritize keeping the ball out of the paint and collapsing to protect the bigs (Corey Manigault and Carlton Bragg) from getting into foul trouble around the rim, even if by doing so other teams get more space on the outside to fire up 3-pointers.

“I think our scheme, defensively, has won us a lot more games than it has lost us from the 3-point line this year,” Weir said.

A number to know: 11

The Lobos are now 11-0 in the Pit this season, marking only the second time in the Mountain West era (21 seasons) that the Lobos have started 11-0 at home.

Here are the best home starts in the Pit in the Mountain West era (1999-2000 season):

• 2005-06: 12-0
• 2019-20: 11-0 (current)
• 2009-10: 10-0
• 2007-08: 10-0
• 2006-07: 10-0

The Lobos’ next home game is Saturday vs. Air Force.

The gamer

Here’s the gamer I filed in the Pit after Tuesday night’s game:

Bragg’s back

After a three game suspension, Carlton Bragg was back on the court Tuesday night for the Lobos.

Understandably so, he looked winded at times like a guy who has missed a few weeks of team activities and also like a guy who might have some other things on his mind.

He finished with a statline of 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting (0-2 3-pointers) with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

Monday afternoon, Albuquerque police released a report of an allegation of an August incident in which a 20-year-old female acquaintance of Bragg’s accused him of trying to have sex with her against her wishes after a night of drinking. While the charge as filed on the report by Albuquerque Police is attempted criminal sexual penetration, police never felt there was enough evidence to charge Bragg and state prosecutors to date have not done so either, though the case also hasn’t been determined yet as one the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office won’t pursue.

UNM won’t say what evidence it reviewed that made the university comfortable enough to put Bragg back on the court while the matter remains under review by prosecutors, but Lobos coach Paul Weir was asked to comment on the matter again after Tuesday’s game.

“I said (after the Dec. 22 Houston Baptist game when Bragg and teammate J.J. Caldwell were both suspended for unrelated incidents) I’ll forward all the questions to my athletic director,” Weir responded to a reporter’s question about why Bragg was back on the court and if UNM has done enough on Bragg’s behalf if they feel confident there is reason that would explain why he’s playing again. “That’s pretty much where I stand now.”

But later, as his portion of the press conference was over, Weir added: “When I can comment on things, I’ve always been transparent. I’ve always been up front with people. I’m not trying to hide anything. And when that time comes, I’ll be happy to answer as many questions as I can. I’m not avoiding things purposely.”

‘Line o the night’

The statistical analysis website KenPom.com tracks all Division I games played every day across the nation. Once all the statistics are inputted to the system, the site churns out a “Line o the night” list of the best statistical performers nationwide.

On Tuesday, there was a relatively light load of 31 games, but that doesn’t really make it any less impressive that both of Tuesday’s top statistical performances came from Mountain West forwards Vance Jackson at UNM and Ryan Swan of Air Force.

Here are the great statlines for each, who meet up on Saturday in the Pit, maybe with a Mountain West Player of the Week honor on the line?

• Vance Jackson, New Mexico: 29 points (3-5 2’s, 6-7 3’s, 5-7 FT’s), 13 rebounds, 2 assists
• Ryan Swan, Air Force: 31 points (10-12 2’s, 1-4 3’s, 8-11 FT’s), 11 rebounds, 2 assists

Winning the middle

The Lobos won the middle 20 minutes on Tuesday, outscoring Fresno State from the 10 minute mark of the first half to the 10 minute mark of the second half 49-32.

Here is the score by “quarters” from Tuesday’s game:

• First 10 minutes: Fresno State 20-14
• Second 10 minutes: New Mexico 27-17
• Third 10 minutes: New Mexico 22-15
• Fourth 10 minutes: New Mexico 15-12

Why is this important? Maybe it’s not, but coming off a game against San Jose State in which the Lobos were dominated in the “middle” of the game 46-27, it was important for the team to keep playing well once it got a lead.

Here is the score by “quarters” from that Jan. 1 loss at San Jose State for the Lobos:

• First 10 minutes: New Mexico 26-21
• Second 10 minutes: San Jose State 25-10
• Third 10 minutes: San Jose State 21-17
• Fourth 10 minutes: New Mexico 32-21

Missing in action

Two Lobos weren’t available for Tuesday night’s game: junior guard Keith McGee, who was out of state due to a death in the family, and Tavian Percy, who about an hour before game time was seen in street clothes outside the team’s locker room and later updated his status during the game with a social media post letting fans know he was sick.

A number to know: 4

Vance Jackson’s 29-point game on Tuesday gave the Lobos their fourth player this season with multiple 20 point games.

Only their Tuesday night counterpart, Fresno State, has had as many players with multiple 20-point games this season among the Mountain West’s 11 members. For the Bulldogs, it’s been New Williams, Jared Hyder, Orlando Robinson and Nate Grimes.

UNM’s 20-point scorers this season:

• 5 times: JaQuan Lyle
• 3 times: Corey Manigault
• 2 times: Carlton Bragg
• 2 times: Vance Jackson

Meanwhile, at the U.S. Air Force Academy…

A funny thing happened on the way to a repeat league title for the unanimous preseason Mountain West favorite, Utah State.

The Aggies have lost three of their first five league games, including a shockingly lopsided setback on Tuesday night to Air Force, 79-60.

Around the Mountain

There were two games in the Mountain West on Tuesday, both late, and three more on Wednesday:

TUESDAY
• New Mexico 78, Fresno State 64
• Air Force 79, Utah State 60

WEDNESDAY
• San Diego State at Wyoming
• Nevada at San Jose State
• UNLV at Boise State

MWC standings

Through Tuesday’s games, here’s a look at the Mountain West standings:

4-0 San Diego State
3-0 Nevada
3-0 UNLV
3-1 New Mexico
2-2 Air Force
2-2 Boise State
2-3 Utah State
1-3 Colorado State
1-3 San Jose State
1-4 Fresno State
0-4 Wyoming

He said it

“Yeah. I definitely think so. I think guys look up to me. It’s probably the fact that I’m the second oldest dude on the team. I’ve been through a lot of different situations in life, not just basketball. … I’m kind of an old man. I give off that kind of vibe.” — UNM senior guard JaQuan Lyle when asked if he considers himself the team’s leader.

Plus/minus

Here are the plus/minus numbers for the Lobos from Tuesday’s game with minutes played in parenthesis:

+17 Carlton Bragg (21:55)
+16 JaQuan Lyle (39:24)
+12 Vance Jackson (32:35)
+10 Zane Martin (30:10)
+10 Makuach Maluach (32:08)
+10 Vante Hendrix (14:55)
+3 Corey Manigault (26:29)
-2 Clay Patterson (00:36)
-2 Emmanuel Kuac (00:36)
-2 Kurt Wegscheider (00:36)
-2 Jordan Arroyo (00:36)

Video: Weir, Lyle, Jackson

Here is the video I posted to the Journal’s YouTube page of the postgame press conference with Paul Weir, JaQuan Lyle and Vance Jackson:

Box score

Here’s a pic of the box score handed out on media row after the game:

And for those of you who like the digital version, CLICK HERE.

Attendance

The announced attendance for Tuesday’s 9 p.m. game in Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit: 10,010

Meanwhile, in Las Cruces…

The NMSU Aggies played much of their season without starting point guard A.J. Harris due to a broken finger.

Now, an injured ankle has him out “indefinitely” according to release from the school.

As he posted on Twitter:

Another number to know: 17

Despite Carlton Bragg’s return to the Lobos lineup after a three game suspension, the Lobos’ rebounding was rather, well, awful on Tuesday night.

Fresno State out-rebounded UNM 44-34 and that included 17 — SEVENTEEN — offensive rebounds. That is the second most a team has had against the Lobos this season (Auburn 19 on Nov. 25). UNM has now allowed an opposing team to grab double figure rebounds in 11 of 17 games, including six games in a row.

“They still murdered us on the backboard,” UNM coach Paul Weir said. “(Nate Grimes) and (Orlando) Robinson are just a load down there to block out. Just having him (Bragg) down there was big for us to offset those guys.”

Grammer’s Guesses

The Guesses went 2-0 on Tuesday night, but still sit at just 9-12-1 on the season in picking games against the point spread.

My 10-year-old daughter’s coin flips were 1-1 on Tuesday and we’re now tied at 9-12-1 on the season.

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